RED WINGS (6-5-1) AT MAPLE LEAFS (2-8-2)
TV: TVA Sports, FS-D, TSN4
TORONTO -- Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri has one goal in 12 games but coach Mike Babcock said Friday he has liked a lot of things about Kadri's game.
"I read something this morning about Nazem Kadri having a slow start," Babcock said after the Maple Leafs practiced Friday ahead of their game against the Detroit Red Wings at Air Canada Centre. "I think he's having the best start of his career. I think he has been phenomenal. So what I see and what [the media] sees sometimes is not the same thing. But that's no big deal."
Babcock said the fact Kadri has one goal is not a reflection of his effort.
"I think he is becoming a real player," Babcock said. "He competes on both sides of the puck and makes his teammates better. I think he's getting better every day."
The Maple Leafs are coming off a 4-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday, but Babcock said he's seeing improvement.
"I thought we had our best game last game, but in the end we're in the winning business," Babcock said. "We think we're getting better."
Goaltender James Reimer will get his third straight start while goalie Jonathan Bernier remains on injured reserve because of a lower-body injury. Like his coach, Reimer said he's seeing gradual improvement in the Maple Leafs.
"It's kind of too bad the wins are not there, but we're trucking along," he said. "Our last game against Winnipeg was a really solid game that could have gone either way. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes you play well and don't win; that's sports. The other team played good too. It's just a matter of sticking to it no matter what the scoreboard says."
Toronto right wing Joffrey Lupul is tied with Leo Komarov for the Maple Leafs lead in goals with five. Like Reimer and Babcock, he also believes strides are being made in the right direction.
"You can look at certain games and say we have played well," Lupul said. "Obviously frustration will creep in when you play well and lose with two minutes left like we did the other day. But that's hockey. If we keep putting out efforts like we did the other night, we think we'll be successful more nights than not."
The Red Wings have won two games in a row have been receiving a solid contribution from 19-year-old right wing Dylan Larkin. He is tied for second on the Red Wings with four goals and nine points.
"I feel pretty comfortable," said Larkin, who has goals in back-to-back games. "The guys have done a great job making me feel comfortable and letting me play. It has been a lot of fun. It has been everything I thought it would be when I dreamed of playing in the NHL."
Detroit coach Jeff Blashill said he does not see a teenager when he sends Larkin over the boards; he sees a competent, two-way performer.
"He has such a good 200-foot-game," Blashill said. "He plays from the correct side of the puck. He has been well-coached both at the [USA Hockey] National Development Program and the University of Michigan and that has allowed him to come in and earn my trust right away. He does a lot of good things offensively, but a lot of players do. I coached a lot of players in the American [Hockey] League that had real good offensive tools and had to learn over time to play defense. Dylan has that part of the game down already, which gives him a chance to be successful."
Here are the projected lineups:
Justin Abdelkader - Henrik Zetterberg - Dylan Larkin
Tomas Tatar - Riley Sheahan - Gustav Nyquist
Joakim Andersson - Darren Helm - Teemu Pulkkinen
Drew Miller - Luke Glendening - Landon Ferraro
Niklas Kronwall - Brendan Smith
Danny DeKeyser - Jonathan Ericsson
Jakub Kindl - Alexey Marchenko
Injured: Pavel Datsyuk (ankle), Johan Franzen (concussion-like symptoms), Brad Richards (back), Mike Green (shoulder), Kyle Quincey (ankle)
Scratched: Tomas Jurco
James van Riemsdyk - Tyler Bozak - Leo Komarov
Shawn Matthias - Nazem Kadri - Joffrey Lupul
Daniel Winnik - Nick Spaling - PA Parenteau
Michael Grabner - Byron Froese - Brad Boyes
Dion Phaneuf - Jake Gardiner
Matt Hunwick - Morgan Rielly
Scott Harrington - Roman Polak
Injured: Stephane Robidas (lower body), Scott Harrington (upper body), Jonathan Bernier (lower body)
Scratched: Rich Clune, Peter Holland, Martin Marincin, Frank Corrado
Status report: Clune was placed on waivers Friday. … Corrado practiced Thursday following a conditioning stint with Toronto of the AHL. … Green will miss his sixth straight game. He skated Friday but Blashill said Green is not ready to play yet.
Who's hot: Bozak has assists in back-to-back games. … Sheahan has one goal and one assist in his past two games. … Zetterberg, Detroit's leading scorer with 14 points, has three points in his past three games.