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At the Rink: Maple Leafs at Red Wings

by Paul Harris

DETROIT -- It will be almost a mirror image of styles when the Detroit Red Wings open the regular season against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday at Joe Louis Arena (7:30 p.m. ET; TVA Sports, SN1).

Jeff Blashill will make his NHL coaching debut with the Red Wings, while former Red Wings coach Mike Babcock will be on the other side as the Maple Leafs' coach. Babcock signed an eight-year contract to coach the Maple Leafs on May 20 after 10 seasons as Red Wings coach.

Blashill was an assistant coach on Babcock's staff with the Red Wings in 2011-12, and then spent the past three seasons as head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins, the Red Wings' American Hockey League affiliate.

Babcock and Blashill utilize similar systems: A puck-control, fast-paced game with an emphasis on defensive responsibility.

"They've been doing it for a long time and we've been doing at for a couple of weeks," Babcock said.

There also is a lot of forechecking pressure.

"For any team to be good, you got to get the puck out of your end," Blashill said. "Toronto is going to make it hard on us; they're going to pressure us real hard. So we've got to do a real good job of managing the puck and getting it out of our end.

"You want to spend as much time in the other team's end as possible so we're going to have to do a good job on the forecheck and create turnovers and spending [offensive] zone time."

The Maple Leafs still are getting accustomed to the system.

"Obviously that's the way we want to play," Toronto left wing James van Riemsdyk said. "There's definitely a learning curve and we just want to work hard at it. There's going to be ups and downs."

Blashill's version of the system allows the defensemen more freedom to jump into the play. He also said he won't juggle the forward lines as much as Babcock did.

"If you looked at my history in Grand Rapids, if you asked the players, I probably don't shuffle as much as Mike," Blashill said. "The way our lineup is, we got lots of different moves we can make.

"I usually go into a game with ideas of moves that I would make if needed. Obviously if you're going about it and it's not working, it doesn't hurt to change things up. We're going into this with some different plans and different things we can do. And if needed we'll make those adjustments."

Here are the projected lineups:


James van Riemsdyk - Nazem Kadri - Brad Boyes

Shawn Matthias - Tyler Bozak - Joffrey Lupul

Leo Komarov - Peter Holland - Mark Arcobello

Daniel Winnik - Nick Spaling - PA Parenteau

Matt Hunwick - Dion Phaneuf

Martin Marincin - Morgan Rielly

Jake Gardiner - Scott Harrington

Jonathan Bernier

James Reimer

Injured: Stephane Robidas (knee)

Scratched: Frank Corrado, Michael Grabner


Justin Abdelkader - Henrik Zetterberg - Dylan Larkin

Tomas Tatar - Brad Richards - Gustav Nyquist

Johan Franzen - Riley Sheahan - Teemu Pulkkinen

Drew Miller - Luke Glendening - Landon Ferraro

Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson

Kyle Quincey - Mike Green

Brendan Smith - Jakub Kindl

Jimmy Howard

Petr Mrazek

Injured: Pavel Datsyuk (ankle), Darren Helm (shoulder, concussion), Danny DeKeyser (foot)

Scratched: Tomas Jurco, Joakim Andersson, Alexey Marchenko

Status report: The Maple Leafs will use the same lineup as they did Wednesday in a 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens. … The preseason battle between Howard and Mrazek was a draw as both played well. Howard gets the start Friday and Mrazek will play Saturday at the Carolina Hurricanes.

Who's Hot: Bernier allowed two goals on 29 shots against the Canadiens. … Zetterberg had six points in five games against the Maple Leafs last season.

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