The Toronto Maple Leafs closeout their current five-game road trip tonight with a visit to Detroit.
Toronto enters the game 2-2-0 on the road trip and hopes to pull above .500 by beating the Red Wings. They would also like to edge ahead in their season series against Detroit, which is tied at two wins a piece right now.
Jonathan Bernier, the regular starter for the Leafs, is recovering from a mild groin strain so James Reimer will likely get the start in net. If true, Drew MacIntyre will temporarily take over the backup duties.
If the Leafs hope to win, they’ll need more offence from their top line.
Over the last three games, Toronto has gotten minimal output from the big unit. Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel have both gone scoreless while James van Riemsdyk has contributed two assists. The Leafs’ offence (and chances) rest on this line so hopefully they’ll put forth a stronger effort tonight.
Both Toronto (5-3-2) and Detroit (4-5-1) have essentially been playing .500 hockey over their last ten games. This is less of a problem for the Leafs since they remain seated fairly high in the Eastern Conference standings. On the other hand, the Red Wings desperately need to start picking up points and making up ground if they hope to reach the playoffs this season.
A win against Toronto – a key divisional opponent – would certainly help Detroit’s playoff chances, but it won’t come easy. Detroit has been burdened with injuries this season and without mainstays like Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk in the lineup, it’s hard to imagine Detroit making a strong push at the close of the season.
This is one of the few areas where Toronto’s relative youth proves a main advantage over Detroit. They may not have the same level of experience or even success as the Red Wings, but the Leafs have health on their side and that might be just enough to win tonight.
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