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Banged-up Wings host desperate Leafs

by Dan Rosen
MAPLE LEAFS (34-31-10) at RED WINGS (43-22-9)

TV -- CBC (HD), FS-D (HD)

Last 10 -- Toronto 5-4-1; Detroit 4-4-2

Season series -- This is the first and only meeting between the clubs this season.

Big story -- The Red Wings once again will be without the equivalent of a top scoring line as injured forwards Pavel Datsyuk, Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen have been ruled out for the weekend.

While Detroit hardly is in any trouble, Toronto needs to win and get some help to turn its playoff dream into reality. The Leafs will have only six games remaining after Saturday's match.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs --
James Reimer has been quite the story in Toronto, as the rookie goalie has been rock solid for the Leafs in their second-half turnaround. Reimer has won four in a row, allowing just six goals in the process. He's been particularly special on the road, where he is 8-0-1 in his last nine starts and hasn't lost a road game in regulation since Feb. 5 at Buffalo. Behind the 23-year-old Reimer, who is 17-7-4 this season, the Leafs had closed the gap between them and the Buffalo Sabres to just three points entering Friday's play.

Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, Reimer has given Leafs Nation a reason to keep watching games this late in the season.

"He just keeps making these big saves," Leafs defenseman Keith Aulie told the Toronto Star. "That really turns you around and gets you into the game. It's a great feeling knowing he's going to be there for his teammates in these big situations."

Red Wings -- With a five-point lead on Nashville for first in the Central Division, the Red Wings are not in any severe danger of falling out of the top three in the Western Conference. However, San Jose's win Thursday matched them in points with the Wings, at 95 each, but Detroit has a game in hand remains second in the Western Conference.

The Red Wings again will rely heavily on Justin Abdelkader to take on more offensive roles in the absence of Datsyuk, Franzen and Bertuzzi. Abdelkader, playing with Henrik Zetterberg and Danny Cleary, led the Wings with seven shots in their 2-1 loss to Vancouver on Wednesday and played a season-high 17:07. Jan Mursak, who recently was called up from the minors, also is being relied upon to bring some offense. He played 8:22 against the Canucks.

"It's going to be a great experience for them to get a little more ice time, to get a chance to play a little bit more," Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom told the Detroit Free Press. "We're going to be relying on those guys to chip in and help out, whether it's offensively or forechecking or getting puck pressure -- it's a great opportunity for them."

Who's hot -- Phil Kessel scored a goal in Thursday's 4-3 win in Denver, giving the Maple Leafs' leading scorer points in three straight games. Nikolai Kulemin had 2 goals against the Avalanche two nights after he chipped in 2 assists to help the Leafs win in Minnesota. Tyler Bozak also scored against Colorado and, like Kessel, has points in three straight games.

Injury report -- Detroit will be without Datsyuk (lower body), Bertuzzi (back) and Franzen (groin). … Leafs forwards Colton Orr (concussion) and Colby Armstrong (broken foot) are out.

Stat pack -- With Reimer starting the Maple Leafs are 16-7-4. They are 10-1-3 when he makes 30 or more saves.

Puck drop -- "It would have been nice to get a couple more wins at the beginning of the season to give ourselves a better chance right now," said Reimer, who was not with the Maple Leafs in the beginning of the season. "We're happy with the way we're playing right now. I just hope we can keep it going."
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