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Notes: Wings host Keefe-coached Leafs

Zadina takes Mantha's spot on power play; Green remains out

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

DETROIT -- A lot has happened since the Toronto Maple Leafs were last in Detroit.

That was on Oct. 12, just five games into the regular season, a game the Leafs won, 5-2.

At the time, the Red Wings were 3-2 and the Leafs were 3-2-1.

But just one week ago, the Maple Leafs fired coach Mike Babcock and named Sheldon Keefe the new head coach.

Tweet from @davehogg: Wednesday will be the first Wings-Leafs game without Mike Babcock since Pat Quinn's Leafs beat Dave Lewis' Red Wings 5-2 on Dec. 6, 2003.

Keefe has been the head coach of the AHL's Toronto Marlies for the last five seasons.

The Leafs had lost six games in a row before making the change, falling to 9-10-4.

Since Keefe took over, Toronto has won two straight, both on the road, 3-1 at Arizona and 5-3 at Colorado.

"It's two games, so it's hard to do a whole bunch different," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "I would say for sure in their D zone coverage, a difference in where their wings stand. They protect the middle, where Babs would have them cut off the top. That's just a difference in philosophy. Some teams do either one.

"No. 2, in the O-zone it looks more of a five-man unit with a de-active D, where Babs' teams got the puck to the top and shot it with chaos at the net, as a result were one of the hardest teams to play against that way. This presents different challenges. Other than that, I haven't seen a whole bunch of differences. Obviously, (Tyson) Barrie is on the one power-play unit and (Mitch) Marner is not in the lineup, so that'll be a decision at that time. This will be different. They've had a few practices, so we'll see."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Blashill wraps up morning skate.Leafs, #RedWings: 7pm tonight. #LGRW

Wings defenseman Dennis Cholowski is not expecting a big difference from that Oct. 12 matchup.

"It's still the same players at the end of the day," Cholowski said. "Maybe they'll change their systems or their style of play a little bit but it's still the same players. They still have a skilled team. The first couple of lines are pretty dangerous, so it's going to be a good test for us."

As one would expect, star center Auston Matthews leads his team both in goals with 16 and points with 30.

William Nylander is second in both categories with eight goals and 19 points.

Marner, out the last seven games with an ankle injury, is third on the team in points with 18 (4-14-18). Captain John Tavares is fifth with 14 points (6-8-14).

"Obviously Matthews and Tavares are probably the two biggest ones," Cholowski said. "Both of them are just high-end skill, among the best players in the world. We have to be on top of them and not give them any time and space. When you do that you give yourself a better chance."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "He's continually getting better. It's been fun to watch him succeed."Cholowski On Zadina | #TORvsDET

ZADINA ON POWER PLAY: When the Wings worked on the power play during Tuesday's practice, Filip Zadina was on the unit with Dylan Larkin, Robby Fabbri, Tyler Bertuzzi and Cholowski.

Zadina, who turns 20 today, said that's a familiar spot.

"(I've been there) pretty much since I was a kid," Zadina said Tuesday. "It's the best for me to be for the one timer, I guess."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: "I gotta play, that's it. If I score a goal it'll be a huge plus for me and for the team, but I just want to do the best for the team."Zadina | #TORvsDET

With Anthony Mantha out, Blashill felt putting Zadina in that spot made the most sense for now.

"Filip Zadina is a shooter similar to Anthony Mantha, so can he fill a similar-type role?" Blashill said. "I'm not saying he's going to do what Anthony did, but can he fill a similar-type role? So we're just trying to put guys in spots where hopefully they can be successful. We need both units to be clicking at a high rate."

As he did with Mantha, Cholowski will be looking to get the puck to Zadina.

"Obviously he's got a big shot on that side, the one timer with Mo out right now," Cholowski said. "He's got high-end skill and he can skate. When you give him the puck, he'll be able to make a play or blast that one timer. It should be interesting and a fun night to have him on there."

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FIL!Leave him some love below! 🥳👏

The other unit has Taro Hirose, Valtteri Filppula, Andreas Athanasiou, Brendan Perlini and Filip Hronek.

"Fil Hronek has been one of our better offensive defensemen," Blashill said. "Valtteri Filppula has been excellent in the bumper. Athanasiou, part of the reason I put him back with that group is it makes two dangerous units."

The Wings have not scored on the power play since Larkin did so at Anaheim on Nov. 12.

Meanwhile, Perlini has not yet recorded his first goal as a Wing. However, he had some excellent opportunities in the last game against Carolina Sunday.

"He needs to capitalize on some of the chances he's gotten to go to the next level," Blashill said. "I think he's gotten some chances here of late. He just needs to start capitalizing on them. One of his best attributes is he's a scorer and scorers have to score eventually. I think he's grown more comfortable. When he got here he hadn't played much at all, so confidence is a big thing. Now he's gotten more games under his belt and confidence is staring to grow.

"He hasn't had unbelievable opportunities, but it's starting to grow a little bit. I see him showing signs of that offensive firepower that he potentially has in him and now he's got to keep growing and keep going with it."

MCILRATH REMAINS; GREEN STILL OUT; ERNE POSSIBLE: Defenseman Dylan McIlrath cleared waivers and remains with the team and is expected to be in the lineup against Toronto.

Mike Green, who has missed the last three games with an upper-body injury, practiced Tuesday and participated in the team's optional morning skate Wednesday but is not quite ready to go.

"I'm getting real close," Green said. "I think it's just whether it's percentage-wise ready to go. Every day's been getting better."

Adam Erne, who injured his hand in the morning skate Saturday, also took part in the optional morning skate.

Blashill said Erne was available to play.

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