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Red Wings top Maple Leafs in Babcock's return

by Paul Harris

DETROIT -- Mike Babcock was focused on what was happening on the ice, not the fact this was his first game behind the visiting team's bench at Joe Louis Arena in 11 years.

"I didn't think much about that," he said after watching his former team, the Detroit Red Wings, defeat his new team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, 4-2 on Friday in a preseason game.

"I was saying tonight when I got here it's been 12 years I guess since I was with another team when you think about the lockout," said Babcock, whose last time behind the visitors bench here was Jan. 3, 2004, during his second and last season as coach of the Anaheim Ducks.

Babcock coached the Red Wings for the past 10 seasons before signing an eight-year contract with the Maple Leafs on May 20.

"I talked to [Red Wings general manager] Kenny Holland before the game; he gets to deal with new people, that's energizing for him. I'm doing a bunch of new stuff that's energizing for me," Babcock said. "And as much as I loved it here, I think for me, in the end, it was probably time to go, and I think they're in a great situation."

Henrik Zetterberg's goal 3:57 into the third period broke a 2-2 tie. He also had an assist, and Brad Richards added an empty-net goal with 1:25 left. Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller scored the other goals for Detroit, and Jimmy Howard made 31 saves in his first game against his former coach.

"He was here for so long, but that's sports," Howard told The Detroit News. "Guys move on. It's not the first time anybody in this room has moved on. It wasn't that weird."

The Red Wings are 5-0-2 in the preseason under Jeff Blashill, Babcock's replacement. Blashill coached Detroit's American Hockey League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for the previous three seasons after spending the 2011-12 season as an assistant on Babcock's staff.

"Both are very demanding. Both run very high-intensity practices, both coaches expect us to be pros every single day, so to be honest with you, it's very much similar," Howard said when asked to compare the two. "The only thing is I think [Blashill] may smile a little bit more."

James van Riemsdyk scored 1:09 into the game, Mark Arcobello had a second-period power-play goal, and James Reimer made 26 saves for Toronto (3-4-0).

"I think we did a lot of good things. I liked our second period. We spent a lot of time in the offensive zone," Babcock said. "We made some mistakes. We'll fix that."

Van Riemsdyk opened the scoring when the rebound of Daniel Winnik's shot went in off his leg. Abdelkader tied it 1:22 later when he tipped in Zetterberg's pass, and Miller made it 2-1 on a one-timer from the slot 5:21 into the game.

Arcobello put in a rebound with 31.1 seconds left the second period to tie it 2-2.

Babcock coached the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of his 10 seasons. He said he's looking forward to the challenge of bringing a winner to Toronto; the Maple Leafs have made the playoffs once since 2004.

"Obviously I had a great time here and enjoyed it very much," he said. "But I'm going to have a great time in Toronto too and we're going to build a real program that we can be proud of."

Babcock said the move will be good for each team.

"[Blashill] is a real good man, a real good coach, is going to do a real good job," he said. "They've got a good, good team, and good young players, and so I think it was a win-win deal for us both."

The teams end their preseason schedules Saturday at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs return to Detroit next Friday for the Red Wings' regular-season opener.

"I think when you come here and you're playing for real points here in a week," Babcock said, "I think it'll be different."

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