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Photo Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

WGD #5: Three things to watch for against Toronto

The Red Wings have had a surprising start to the season, to say the least.

Collecting 6 out of a possible 8 points was the best case scenario for this hockey club. They’ll need all the points they can get once February and March near. The locker room is certainly in a feel good mood, having snapped the long-standing losing streak in Montreal in regulation, that went all the way back to 2007, to go along with the hot start.

But this is the NHL, and a couple of wins in October won’t get you much attention. If Detroit really wants to send a message to the hockey world then they’ll need to bring their A-game tonight. The Toronto Maple Leafs are in town and they’ve had Detroit’s number during the Auston Matthews era.

Taking two points would really set the tone that the Wings aren’t satisfied with just being competitive.

Projected Lines

Detroit Red Wings

Still out with injury is Frans Nielsen and Trevor Daley. Jeff Blashill has expressed optimism that they’ll return to play on the upcoming road trip to Western Canada.

In the lineup is Adam Erne, who took an ugly looking hit to the head Thursday night. He looks to be all good, which is vital. As we’ve seen, the Wings secondary scoring is not getting the job done, so losing anyone from that group can only make things worse. Erne is still looking to find his groove offensively, although has played a key role on the penalty kill.

The big question mark is Filip Hronek, who will be a game time decision. He was subbing in for parts of practice so there is a chance, but I wouldn’t hold your breath. If Hronek is indeed out, Alex Biega will draw into the lineup for his season debut. Presumably, Dennis Cholowski will replace Hronek on the top-pair, seeing as Blashill has paired the two this season to limit Madison Bowey’s minutes. Then insert Biega on the third-pair.

The loss of Hronek would be major. He has asserted himself as the go-to guy on the back-end, eating up well over 22 minutes a game.

Lastly, in the starters net: Jimmy Howard.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs are obviously a star power driven team. A 1-2 punch of Matthews and John Tavares is just silly. Mich Marner and William Nylander aren’t bad either. Same goes for Morgan Rielly on defense.

What’s different about them this year is the depth. Now that they’ve paid all their stars, Toronto must fill out the rest of the lineup with players on cheap deals. So there are a lot of new names like Ilya Mikheyev and Trevor Moore, who are both value players on entry-level contracts. To boost the depth, Kyle Dubas made the bold decision to trade away Nazem Kadri. But it might have been worth it, seeing as he added Tyson Barrie while only slightly downgrading their third-line center to Alex Kerfoot.

Another name to look out for is Rasmus Sandin. The 2018 first rounder had a historic season in the AHL last season, and has not looked out of place with the big club.

Three Thoughts

1.) Danny DeKeyser’s Resurgence

Danny DeKeyser quietly has 4 points in 4 games. The Western Michigan product enjoyed a bounce back 2018-19 season, and looks to be continuing his great play in 2019-20. DeKeyser is establishing himself as a passable #2 defensemen, which seemed like a pipe dream not to long ago. For whatever reason, he completely fell off a cliff in 2016-17, appearing to be another albatross in the system.

That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. You certainly have to commend the guy for sticking with it. With the possibility of no Hronek tonight, he will be heavily relied upon. Taking on the lethal Toronto offense will be a good test for him.

2.) Jimmy Howard in Net

Howard is back in after serving as the backup against Montreal.

If this game goes the way we expect, Howard will have to make timely saves, often. As good as Detroit’s top-line is, the Leafs have two lines that could arguably match their production. So the Wings will need strong goaltending if they want to keep the score close.

Howard is currently sporting a .918 save percentage through two games.

3.) Fourth Line Play

Believe it or not, but Detroit’s fourth line played a solid game in Montreal. Justin Abdelkader, Jacob de la Rose, and Darren Helm have played well, relative to expectations. They’ve even been more productive then the third-line, with Helm chipping in a goal on Thursday.

If the secondary offense in going to come from anywhere, it might just be the fourth-line. Keep an eye on them, they play a hard game structured around forechecking.