After last night’s thrilling victory against the Nashville Predators, the Wings traveled back to Detroit as they’re hosting the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight at Little Caesars Arena.

Both teams played intense games last night. Detroit won theirs, but Toronto lost 5-3 to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The team has been a solid 8-2-0 in their last 10 as they hold down the third place spot in the Atlantic Division. A win tonight would bring them closer to the Bruins, but Boston still has four games in hand on them so it’s an uphill battle.

As for Detroit, they are still seven points out of that final Wild Card spot with four teams to jump over. A win tonight would lift them over two of those teams, assuming the Rangers lose this afternoon and the Panthers lose tonight. Unfortunately, this is how it’s going to go for the Wings the rest of the season if they want to get into the playoffs: cheering for other teams to lose.

As we inch closer to the trade deadline, it’s become painfully obvious this team is not a playoff team. Especially because they have a healthy lineup.


Red Wings lines courtesy of DailyFaceoff

I don’t anticipate any changes to the Red Wings line-up for today. The first line was productive last night as Anthony Mantha assisted on Luke Witkowski‘s first NHL goal and Gustav Nyquist added what would eventually become the game winner.

Dylan LarkinTomas Tatar, and Andreas Athanasiou looked fine, with Larkin and Tatar connecting on a couple of goals over the last few games. The third line of Frans NielsenDarren Helm, and Justin Abdelkader will have their work cut out for them as they’ll match up against one of Toronto’s top-2 lines.

On the blueline, Mike Green is going to sit out his second straight game with an upper-body injury. Hopefully this is more of a precautionary sitting than reactionary. A big injury right now would absolutely ruin his value at the trade deadline. Witkowski, who had a big game last night, will likely fill in again.


Maple Leafs lines courtesy of DailyFaceoff

The strength of Toronto’s top-9 can’t be overstated. Auston MatthewsWilliam Nylander, and Mitch Marner are the three standouts that will one day be franchise cornerstones for this team. Combined, they have 138 points this season and are leading the team. As the one who has the biggest tendency to disappear for stretches at a time, Marner has been fantastic lately, putting up eight points in his last five games.

Look for guys like Tyler Bozak and James Van Riemsdyk to get big minutes as there is an uncertainty around their immediate future with the team. Both are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season and not likely to return due to some other big contract negotiations in the Leafs plans. Van Riemsdyk is the best net front guy that the Leafs have and is incredibly dangerous on the powerplay.

On the blueline is where the Leafs can be exploited. Ron Hainsey is a veteran who hasn’t been himself since returning from an illness a couple of weeks ago. He’ll be paired with Morgan Rielly. The second pair of Jake Gardiner and Nikita Zaitsev are the most polarizing pair as Gardiner is prone to big mistakes in his own zone. Finally, rookie Travis Dermott rounds out the bottom pair with the veteran Romak Polak. Dermott has been a good story for the Leafs this season.


Jimmy Howard vs. Curtis McElhinney

Since both teams played last night, it was an easy decision for both coaches in the goaltending department. Petr Mrazek played last night (and played fabulously), so Jimmy Howard will get the start against the Leafs. Despite being a little streaky, Howard has been having a solid season. His last five games, however, haven’t been great. He’s 2-3 in his last five with only one performance where he put up a save percentage of .903%. Over the course of those games, he has a save percentage of .853%. Not great. Hopefully he can bounce back tonight against the scary Maple Leafs offense.

Speaking of the Maple Leafs, they gave their starter the Pittsburgh match-up tonight, which means the Wings will face Curtis McElhinney. McElhinney is a career NHL back-up goalie, but he’s been having a better season than his average this year. Over the ten games he’s played in, he has a .932 save percentage and two shutouts, in one of which he made 40+ saves! The Leafs defense isn’t necessarily first class, so if the Wings’ forwards can find their legs tonight, they might be able able to steal a game by peppering McElhinney with shots and sneaking a few past him.


Tonight’s game is the Hometown Hockey game on Sportsnet in Canada. So if you’re tuning in from there, you can catch the game on Sportsnet. As always, though, the game will also be on Fox Sports Detroit so be sure to tune in there for Kenny, Mickey, and the rest of the crew.

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