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Notes: Wings steel themselves for challenge of Maple Leafs

Detroit recalls Lashoff from Grand Rapids

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

TORONTO -- The Red Wings were already prepared for a stiff challenge in the Toronto Maple Leafs but that challenge will be even greater.

That's because forward William Nylander returns to the Toronto lineup after a long contract holdout. Nylander signed a six-year extension on Dec. 1, the last day he could sign before missing the season.

"He skated yesterday, was strong, great edges, shot the puck, is an intelligent player," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. "Once he gets up to speed, he'll be real good. But we expect him to have energy here tonight. He should be the freshest guy in hockey, I would think."

During Thursday's morning skate, Nylander skated on a line with Auston Matthews and Patrick Marleau.

"That just adds more offensive firepower, they already had the top in the league and now add him in and it's going to be even better," Wings rookie defenseman Dennis Cholowski said. "It's going to be a tough test for us, that's for sure."

In 10 career games against the Red Wings, Nylander has four goals and five assists.

Of course, that pales in comparison to Matthews, who has nine goals and three assists in eight games against the Wings.

Matthews dazzled against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday, posting his sixth multi-goal game and his second overtime winner of the season.

But Matthews' first goal against Buffalo was eye-catching.

Tweet from @Sportsnet: Good luck stopping Auston Matthews when he does things like this 😳

"It's quick hands, that's for sure," Cholowski said about Matthews' goal. "Being able to grab the puck, put it down and then wrap it in, that's obviously an elite play. He's an elite player."

Then there's John Tavares, who centers Zach Hyman and Mitch Marner.

In 19 games against Detroit, Tavares has seven goals and 21 assists.

Cholowski, who played in Toronto in the preseason, is looking forward to the challenge.

"It really is, I think, a fun experience for me just being a young guy and playing against some of the top players in the league," Cholowski said. "Literally, the top, however many guys in the league right now. For a guy like me, it's my first game against them in the regular season and it's going to be a fun experience."

The Red Wings will be without two of their top goal scorers in Anthony Mantha (9-5-14) and Tyler Bertuzzi (9-7-16) as well as veteran defensemen Danny DeKeyser and Trevor Daley.

"Our approach has got to be the same, especially when we're a bit shorthanded," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "When you are shorthanded, you better make up for it with work ethic and compete. We have to make sure that we really work and compete, try to outwork and out-compete them and out-detail them in every shift. We gotta be great in those areas. We're gonna have to certainly rise to the occasion. They're a good team. We know that. But every night, when we go out and play our best, we put ourselves in position to win. So we gotta go out and play our best and put ourselves in that position."

GOALIES TONIGHT: Jonathan Bernier was first off the ice after the team's optional morning skate in Toronto, meaning he will get his second straight start against one of his former teams.

Bernier started last Sunday against the Colorado Avalanche, the team he played for last season. Bernier spent three seasons with the Maple Leafs from 2013-16.

In two career games against the Maple Leafs, Bernier is 2-0-0 with a 2.01 goals-against average and .943 save percentage.

It will be Bernier's 300th career game.

Meanwhile, Babcock confirmed that backup Garret Sparks will play against the Wings, giving Frederik Andersen the night off.

Sparks is 0-1-0 with a 3.14 goals-against average and .885 save percentage in one game against the Wings.

LASHOFF RECALLED: With DeKeyser's recent hand injury and Daley still out, the Red Wings needed another defenseman.

On Thursday, the team recalled Brian Lashoff from the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: UPDATE: The Detroit #RedWings today recalled defenseman Brian Lashoff from the AHL���s Grand Rapids Griffins.

"One, when I talk to (Griffins coach) Ben Simon, they tell me that he's been consistently probably their best D," Blashill said about the decision to call up Lashoff. "That's what (assistant general manager) Ryan Martin has said, that's what (general manager) Ken Holland has said, that's what Ben Simon has said. The other D have played good, it's not that they haven't played good, but he's been consistently their best. Number two, you'd rather bring up a wily veteran like Lash than a young kid to come up and potentially not play. Those are two big reasons."

Lashoff has 123 NHL games under his belt, including 75 during the 2013-14 season.

This season with the Griffins, Lashoff has three assists, 19 penalty minutes and is plus-2 in 17 games.

Blashill said against the Maple Leafs, they would stick with the six defensemen who finished the game Tuesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning -- Cholowski, Nick Jensen, Mike Green, Luke Witkowski, Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson.

It is particularly disappointing for the Wings to be without DeKeyser, who missed eight games from Oct. 15-Nov. 1 with an upper-body injury, as he had been playing quite well since he returned.

"Danny's been real good," Blashill said. "It's unfortunate, especially for him, because I think he's played excellent, probably the best hockey I've seen him play in the four years I've been here. That's an unfortunate loss. But that's part of sports. You gotta make sure other guys step in. I've said this before; how much you feel the loss always depends on how well the guys that are stepping into those roles play, whether that means coming into the lineup or whether that means getting more ice time. Our D-men have to be at the top of their game with Danny's absence."

MEGAN RETURNS: Since Mantha is out for 4-6 weeks after hand surgery and Bertuzzi is finishing the second of his two-game suspension, the Red Wings recalled forward Wade Megan from Grand Rapids Wednesday.

Megan, 28, played six games with the Wings from Nov. 1-Nov. 15.

"I don't know if I'd use the word comfortable, I'd say familiar, which is a good feeling to have," Megan said. "It's good to come to Detroit and see some familiar faces and kind of work on some of the relationships that I built when I was here for that stretch earlier in the season."

Megan, who did not record a point in his previous six games, plans to focus on defense against the high-powered Leafs.

Tweet from @DetroitRedWings: Game day work. #LGRW

"Tonight, just stick to my game, play good defensively, build my game starting from there," Megan said. "Hopefully continue to move forward and get the coaches' confidence in me and just go from there."

Megan did catch Matthews' play behind the net the other night but said he's not thinking about that.

"Obviously they have some incredible firepower, some incredible offensive talent," Megan said. "But I try not to worry about it too much, about what's going on over there, just try to focus on my personal game and what I can do to help the team win and just focus on what's going on in this locker room."

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