What a string of hugely important games for the Maple Leafs this week, starting tonight in Detroit. The Leafs will play the Lightning and Canadiens in their next two games, who are tied for 2nd in the Atlantic Division at one point ahead of Toronto. A good week here puts the Leafs in position to take sole possession of second in the Atlantic; a bad week puts the Leafs‘ current wildcard spot in jeopardy. *Dun dun dun*
The Red Wings lineup has a strong Grand Rapids flavour to it as it has all season with the injuries Detroit has experienced. No Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Weiss, Helm, Anderson, Cleary, Jurco, Samulesson or Gustavsson. Bertuzzi is questionable. Unsurprisingly, the Red Wings are second in the League with 333 man games lost to injury this season. (For those curious, the Leafs are 14th in the League with 206 man-games lost).
The glut of Wings’ injuries have been at forward, as their defence core is fully healthy at the moment. That’s probably of little consolation to Babcock, who has been trotting out this lineup of late:
James Reimer is expected to start in net for the Leafs. He’s only played the Red Wings twice in his career, both losses. Most recently (just before Christmas), he was pulled after the first period against Detroit after letting in three goals on twelve shots. He wasn’t happy about it, but pucks were definitely going “through” him in the opening 20 and the Leafs did manage to salvage a point afterward.
Jimmy Howard will start for the Red Wings (1-1-1 all time vs. the Leafs).
The Maple Leafs could opt to dress Peter Holland, as he was healthy and available to them on Sunday but Carlyle opted to move McClement onto line three to start the game (there was a tonne of shuffling once the Leafs went down 3-0). Between the 7D set up and Carter Ashton playing 2 minutes, the Leafs had five forwards play over 20 minutes on Sunday. Is that something Carlyle should be replicating throughout this flurry of games down the stretch?
The Red Wings trail the Leafs by seven points but hold two games in hand going into tonight. The season series sits at 1 shootout win to 1 shootout loss for both teams.