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Photo Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

WGD #27: Three things to watch for against Toronto

The final game before American Thanksgiving has arrived, which is typically the time of year when we have a good gauge of what each team truly is. If the Red Wings are who we think they are, well, this season is already a wash. Detroit has lost six in a row, which, sadly, doesn’t feel anywhere close to rock bottom. Unlike the first quarter of the season, they are losing by close scores. But no matter, loses are still loses. In their last 22 games, the Wings have only won 4 games.

Looking to snap this latest losing stretch, they’ll have to take down the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have been a major focal point in the media since firing Mike Babcock as head coach. However, since promoting Sheldon Keefe to bench boss, the Leafs have found the gear they were missing under Babcock. With the momentum they have coming into tonight’s game, they’ll be a tough matchup for Detroit, as has been the case for the past few years.

Projected Lines

Detroit Red Wings

Obviously, injuries have decimated this lineup, particularly players at the top of the depth chart. The most recent loss of Anthony Mantha, who is expected to be sidelined for several weeks, is a major blow to the Red Wings. Mantha leads the team in both goals and points, and now Jeff Blashill must figure out how to replace him. In the team’s first attempt at playing without the big man, they were shutout by the Carolina Hurricanes.

Filip Zadina will sub in for his second game, being the call-up for Mantha. The Red Wings number one pick in 2018 flashed his high-end skill in the first period against Carolina, in what was an overall solid debut. Unfortunately, Detroit’s only powerplay of the game came in the final two minutes, so Zadina didn’t see any time on the man-advantage. That should change tonight, as Zadina is expected to be on the top unit.

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Toronto Maple Leafs

A lot more is opening up with this lineup now that Keefe is at the helm. Tyson Barrie, in particular, is starting to breakthrough now that he has more freedom offensively. They’ve now got three different pairs that are clicking on all cylinders.

Missing in action will be Alexander Kerfoot, who was slapped with a two game suspension to sign hundreds of Fanatics jerseys for boarding Erik Johnson of the Avalanche. Jason Spezza moves up to line three in his absence. Also filling in is Pierre Engvall, who scored a goal in his NHL debut earlier this week.

Three Thoughts

1.) Zadina’s linemates

As highly anticipated as Zadina’s season debut was, it was quite disappointing to see his linemates consist of Darren Helm and Valtteri Filppula. Many would have liked to see him play on the top-line with Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi, or at the very least with Andreas Athanasiou.

Now, its noteworthy to point out that the game versus Carolina was Zadina’s third game in three nights (Grand Rapids played a back-to-back right before the call-up). Three games in three nights is a difficult task for anyone, let alone a second year pro. With some rest leading up to the Toronto game, it would be nice to see Zadina get reps on the Larkin line. In all honesty, anyone with high-end skill on this team. Darren Helm doesn’t exactly fit that bill.

2.) McIlrath potentially in

Not listed above, but it seems Dylan McIlrath will draw in tonight, despite clearing waivers this afternoon. Because McIlrath played 10 NHL games, the club needed to make a paper move and waive him, but for the time being he’ll remain with the parent club. Mike Green could be missing another game with injury. He’s hopeful for Friday.

Following the game, most likely tomorrow, expect to see McIlrath assigned to Grand Rapids. Once Green is good to go they will no longer require his services as a 6th/7th D-man.

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3.) Barrie’s resurgence

Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas made a huge splash this offseason to acquire Tyson Barrie, as well as Kerfoot from Colorado, in exchange for long time Leaf Nazem Kadri. The initial return was not looking too good, as Barrie was struggling on both ends of the ice. It got to the point where Babcock was calling out his defensive play.

However, Barrie has been on a roll the last two games. After not scoring a goal under Babcock, he has since netted 2 goals and an assist in the two games since Keefe’s hiring. He’s playing with a lot of swagger right now, which could pose great challenges for Detroit, as they will already have a handful to deal with in Auston Matthews & Co. up front.