The Leafs need a win tonight to avoid losing their season series with Detroit, and also to help inch their way back into playoff contention.
To do all of that, I think the Leafs need to be able to contain the newest Red Wing, and former Ottawa Senator, Daniel Alfreddsson.
Twice this season, Alfredsson has gotten the better of the Leafs, scoring the GWGs in two of the previous Leafs/Wings game this season. Toronto and Detroit have three games against each other already this year, Wings won two, in those two games, Alfie helped put the Leafs away, one more time and it’ll probably be for the rest of the season. Leafs/Wings’ head to head matches this season could easily dictate which of the two clubs makes the playoffs, and which one heads to the golf course early.
Alfie killed the Leafs many many times with the Sens, and is so far doing it again in Michigan.
The one game that stands up right now as being huge for the Leafs is the Winter Classic game which Tyler Bozak scored in the shootout. If tonight’s game needs a shootout, hang on!
You don’t usually see both of these teams struggling at the exact same time but ever since before that HBO 24/7 series aired in December, both of these teams are barely surviving, and are struggling for every single point. Detroit fell at home to Montreal on Thursday night, 4-3, while Toronto fell behind early (again) and lost in Philadelphia last night, 4-2.
Life has been brutal for both of these teams.
“It’s the biggest game of the year,” says Leafs Head Coach Randy Carlyle, who is currently coaching his team through a seven-game losing streak.
When Detroit visits tonight, expect Wings Head Coach Mike Babcock to juggle the lines a lot. It almost worked on Thursday.
“We didn’t play very good, so we changed things during the game,” coach Mike Babcock told The Detroit News after practice Friday. “We’re just going to stay with what we finished (in line combinations).”
RED WINGS (33-26-14) at MAPLE LEAFS (36-31-8)
TV: NHLN-US, CBC, FS-D, TSN 1050 Radio
Last 10: Detroit 4-5-1; Toronto 2-8-0
The Red Wings and Maple Leafs join Columbus and Washington in the biggest logjam race for a playoff spot in the entire NHL. All four teams play tonight. Columbus is in Carolina, Washington has Boston in action right now.
Toronto has played two more games than each of the other three teams.
“If we regroup and tidy up the turnover situation,” he said. “We have to win more 1-on-1 battles for the puck. We’re not strong enough on the puck in those areas. Those are the things at this juncture in the season, it’s imperative we win those battles, and right now we’re not winning enough of them.”
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who made 25 saves Friday, has not played on consecutive days since Dec. 11-12. Backup James Reimer has lost five in a row, allowing 18 goals.
Who’s hot: Nyquist had a nine-goal, six-game streak end Thursday; he had an assist. Forward Tomas Tatar has six points in a three-game streak. Forward Riley Sheahan has six points in his past five games. … Van Riemsdyk has a goal in two straight games, and is one shy of his first 30-goal season. Defenseman Jake Gardiner has six points in his past six games.
Forward Tyler Bozak has five points in his past five. Forward Dave Bolland on Friday scored his first goal since Oct. 26.
Injury report: Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk (knee) skated with the team Friday, the first time since he last played Feb. 27; he will take part in a full practice Tuesday. Forward Stephen Weiss (sports hernia) will skate for a second day in a row Saturday as he tries to return from a 42-game absence. Forward Justin Abdelkader (leg laceration) skated. Forwards Henrik Zetterberg (back), Justin Abdelkader (leg laceration), Daniel Cleary (knee) and Mikael Samuelsson (shoulder), and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (finger fracture) are out. … Maple Leafs defenseman Paul Ranger(concussion) is close to a return.