GDT: Maple Leafs at Red Wings, 7:00pm (CBC)

GDT: Maple Leafs at Red Wings, 7:00pm (CBC)

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Photo Credit: The Star

Tonight, the Leafs face a strong Detroit team, one that is expected to make a deep postseason run. However, if there was ever a time to exploit their goaltending woes and the injury bug that’s been very unkind to the Wings lately, it’s now.

This will once again be a one and done meeting and both teams will look to make the most if it. No question that the Leafs need the 2 points more, but this Detroit team will look to show some early character and team spirit prior to the start of the playoffs.

Storyline: Injury Bug

Pavel Datsyuk, Todd Bertuzzi and Johan Franzen will all be out of the lineup which will surely hurt the Red Wings. Their depth level aside, I don’t see a team in the NHL that wouldn’t feel the loss of that kind of talent. Henrik Zetterberg should be playing on a line with Justin Abdelkader who is making the most of his increased role in the absence of the aforementioned talent. Daniel Cleary will most likely line up alongside the two. At the same time, the Maple Leafs come into this game missing Colby Armstrong who is out for the season with a broken foot and Colton Orr who suffered a concussion earlier in the year.

Top And Bottom

These two teams find themselves in completely different positions entering their final stretch of games. The Red Wings currently stand second in the extremely tough Western Conference and have all but clinched their playoff berth. Their record stands at 43-22-9 which gives them 95 points. The Leafs are clawing their way into the playoffs with a record of 34-31-10 which gives them 78 points, enough for the 10th spot in the Eastern Conference, 5 points out of the 8th and final playoff spot. It will be really interesting to see how the teams react given their different positions prior to the start of playoffs.

Keys To The Game

Forechecking Pressure: Quite possibly the only way to make this Red Wing team unsuccessful in their quick transition play and superior puck management is putting pressure on their defence early and often. Our forecheck pressure has to be energetic, constant and deep. The Red Wings are primarily a puck possession team, a really good puck possession team. If we increase the amount of their turnovers in the defensive zone and increase the time spent in their defensive zone we have a good chance of winning this game. Keep in mind this is a big if simply because their defensive corps features savvy veterans and a guy that’s probably the second best defenseman in league history (well it’s either him or Doug Harvey).

Goaltending: James Reimer is once again expected to start and star in goal for the Maple Leafs. This is probably the only area of play in which the Leafs have the upper hand right now. Reimer has been absolutely brilliant in goal and has given the Leafs a chance to make the playoffs. His record stands at 17-7-4 in 30 games played with a 1.50 GAA and a stellar .954 save percentage. Jimmy Howard is 0-1-0, 3.93 GAA, and a save percentage of .875 in last 2 game played. Numbers are a strong indicator of his performance yes, but anyone who has watched the Red Wings in recent weeks knows this guy hasn’t been at the top of his game. Joey MacDonald has been showing signs of solid goaltending (.926 SP and 2.10 GAA) but with only 12 games played (not a big sample size) I’m not quite ready to give him the benefit of the doubt. The Maple Leafs are 16-7-4 with Reimer starting, they are also 10-1-3 when he makes 30 or more saves.

Previous Meetings

Nov 7, 2009 @TOR TOR 5 DET 1

Lineup

Per AM 640′s Jonas Siegel:

MacArthur – Grabovski – Kulemin

Lupul – Bozak – Kessel

Kadri – Boyce – Crabb

Sjostrom – Brent – Brown

Aulie – Phaneuf

Gunnarsson – Schenn

*Lebda – Komisarek

*There’s a good chance that Brett Lebda replaces Matt Lashoff tonight against the Red Wings. Ron Wilson is partial to letting a player face his former squad for the first time. Lebda played for five seasons in Detroit, winning a Stanley Cup in 2008.

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