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Wings, Griffins both in Toronto to battle Leafs, Marlies

Here are a pair of game-day preview videos, first from the Red Wings, who are in Toronto battling the Maple Leafs this evening...

And then from the Griffins, who are in Toronto battling the Marlies tonight:

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Red Wings-Maple Leafs game-day articles: the pressure is most certainly on the Wings

The Red Wings face a deceptively stiff task in beating the Toronto Maple Leafs this evening (7 PM EDT on FSD/CBC/City TV/NHL Network U.S./97.1 FM). Jimmy Howard will be battling Garret Sparks in the nets, and while most of Leaf Land was focused on Nazem Kadri's fine for diving, the Toronto Sun's Ian Shantz reports that the Leafs are aware of the importance of tonight's game for the visitors:

The first of a trio of remaining home games should feature enough built-in motivation: A chance to kick an Original Six rival that much closer to the edge of the cliff, while being guided by the man who spent a decade in Motown and won a Cup there.

Mike Babcock is sticking to his script, suggesting he is rooting for his old Wings team to reach the post-season, but the ultra-competitive coach must be at least somewhat fuelled by the idea of his young, American Hockey League-heavy Leafs outfit playing spoiler against wild-card-hovering teams Detroit and Philadelphia down the home stretch.

"The pride is immense," Babcock said following the morning skate when asked about the Wings' desire to keep the streak in tact. "We're not feeling much playoff pressure here right now."

Added forward Tobias Lindberg, who will make his Air Canada Centre debut: "We're playing a really good team who is chasing a playoff spot here, so it's going to be a different atmosphere."

The Leafs' website posted a game preview and comments from Fredrik Gauthier, Kadri, Tobias Lindberg and coach Babcock:

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Red Wings-Maple Leafs morning skate Tweets and articles: Game previews + optional skate

Updated 3x at 12:30 PM: Howard starts.

The Red Wings face what I think may in fact be their toughest task of the season thus far in beating the footloose and fancy-free Toronto Maple Leafs this evening (7 PM EDT on FSD/CBC/City/NHL Network U.S./97.1 FM). Toronto has absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain by ensuring that Mike Babcock's Mike Babcock-less Red Wings don't make the playoffs, and twisting the knife in the heart of the Wings' playoff hopes would certainly be savored by every Maple Leafs fan.

Toronto took to the ice first for their morning skate, as noted by TSN's Mark Masters...

Lines at Leafs skate

Grabner-Kadri-Boyes
Greening-Nylander-Parenteau
Lindberg-Bozak-Kapanen
Laich-Gauthier-Froese

The Toronto Star's Mark Zwolinski...

Looks like sparks starts tonite in goal for leafs - soshnikov out for morning skate - has been out since March 19

And TorontoMapleLeafs.com's Paul Hendrick:

Garret Sparks confirmed as starter for tonight vs Detroit. #TMLTalk

...

ichalek season over because of a knee injury, Gauthier recalled. #TMLtalk

The Grand Rapids Griffins will be battling the Toronto Marlies this evening...

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A Very Optional Skate For The Wings This Morning

 

added 11:28am, For the Leafs...

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Play The Youngsters

from Jordan Heath-Rawlings of Sportsnet,

The argument here is not that playing these youngsters more will suddenly give the Red Wings a better chance to get to the playoffs, nor is it that the kids should be played in an attempt to miss the playoffs and gain a shot at a better draft pick.

Those are single-season plans and they don't serve anything.

The argument here is that by the time Detroit's cadre of young talent is truly ready to contend for a Stanley Cup and not merely settle for an eighth seed, the team will not be led by Datsyuk and Zetterberg.

By responding to the first real taste of adversity the young core faced by immediately ramping down their ice time in favour of more trusted veterans, management is sending the message that the team is emphatically not in the hands of the future stars; that they can't yet be trusted to make or miss the playoffs as a group.

And it's a strange message for a coach who has actually won a championship with many of these players to send to his charges. And if it works, and the streak is extended to 25 seasons... will it matter? What are five or six games against the Capitals right now worth compared to the important work of transferring ownership of the team and the dressing room to the group you expect to win with in 2019, 2020 and beyond?

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Videos- About Last Night’s Win Over The Wild

from Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News,

“We played good for 60 (minutes),” coach Jeff Blashill said. “We did a good job overall, didn’t give up a lot of easy chances, we created a good amount.

“It was a good hockey games. I was happy to come out on top.”

Dylan Larkin (power play), Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan scored goals for the Wings, while goalie Jimmy Howard stopped 20 shots.

“Very satisfying, it was two points we definitely needed,” Howard said. “We started right from the drop of the puck and played a full 60 minutes.

“I was proud of the effort from all the guys in front of me.”

This was a much tighter and sharper defensive effort from the Red Wings.

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from Ansar Khan of Mlive,

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Red Wings-Wild quick take: one done well

The Red Wings were freed from the losing clutches of March, Detroit's worst month of the season by far, and faced their final five games of the regular season starting with a battle against the equally playoff-desperate Minnesota Wild on Friday. With Jimmy Howard in the net, the Wings hoped to start on time and take advantage of a Wild team on the back half of a back-to-back slate.

Detroit took care of business, defeating the Wild 3-2, and the Wings got contributions from the people who needed to step up the most in Jimmy Howard (20 saves), the line of Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan and Tomas tatar (2 goals and 2 assists), the too-quiet Dylan Larkin (1 goal) and a stellar 25:47 from Danny DeKeyser, who unfairly finished at -1.

The Red Wings needed to hang on for dear life at times, but for the most part, they took it to Minnesota in terms of possession and control of the puck and they took it to Minnesota in terms of grit, jam and poise, and the Wings won as an earned result.

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It’s Jimmy Or Bust Tonight

from Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News,

So with the Red Wings facing one of their biggest games of the season — out of the playoff picture and in need of a victory — Howard gets the call.

“I have a lot of belief in his character and the work he put in,” said Blashill of Howard, who won his last start, Monday’s 3-2 win over Buffalo.

Howard relieved Mrazek in the first period of Tuesday’s 4-3 loss in Montreal with Howard allowing two third-period goals that resulted in Montreal’s comeback victory.

Blashill appreciated the approach Howard took when he wasn’t playing.

“Whether he was struggling or the team was struggling in front of him, he went to work and made sure he earned confidence by putting the work in,” Blashill said. “Earned confidence comes from you’ve done the work to succeed and have the skill set to succeed.

“Nobody has wavered on the skill set side and he’s put the work in. He was ready when got his opportunities.”

Blashill wouldn’t go into who is starting Saturday in Toronto, but sounded as if Mrazek would be ready if Blashill decided to go that way.

more on the Wings including Blashill's logic for moving Mantha to the 4th line...

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The Morning Skate

via Ansar Khan tweets,

RedWings on ice for morning skate. Howard is in the starter's net, as expected.

lines same as yesterday:
Abdelkader-Zetterberg-Larkin
Helm-Datsyuk-Richards
Nyquist-Sheahan-Tatar
Athanasiou-Glendening-Mantha

Will add to the post as needed.

added 10:41am, Khan...

Same pairs on defense:
DeKeyser-Quincey
Kronwall-Marchenko
Ericsson-Green
Smith it appears will be scratched again.

Power-play units:
Nyquist-Zetterberg-Larkin, Abdelkader (net front), Kronwall
And
Tatar-Datsyuk-Mantha (net front), Richards-Green

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Questions For Khan

Ansar Khan of Mlive answers a few questions...

Q: With Mrazek coming off it for a while now, will this change their off-season plans on what they'll do with Howard and how much they'll sign (Mrazek) for? Any chance they'll look to trade Mrazek, who would be easier to deal and would fetch more?

A: I imagine it throws a monkey wrench into their plans. I expected they would sign Mrazek, a restricted free agent, to a long-term deal (4-5 years) for more than $4 million a season and look to trade Howard.

Now, I think they ink Mrazek to a two-year bridge deal for less and hang onto Howard just in case. Moving Howard this summer would have been difficult anyway since he has three years remaining at a $5.3 million cap hit and there will be few teams in the market for a starting goalie.

The Red Wings probably would have needed to retain a chunk of his salary or take back a contract they ordinary wouldn't want.

Unless something changes over the next week and, if they make it, in the playoffs, I think Howard and Mrazek will be at training camp in September, competing for the starting job.

I doubt they would look to trade Mrazek based on a bad four-to-six week stretch after spending several years developing him. He's young, extremely talented and just needs more experience.

Q: With the defense struggling, why not call-up Robbie Russo? He's been tearing it up in G.R.

A: It's a big leap from the AHL to the NHL, especially for a young defenseman.

Russo has had a terrific year in Grand Rapids (five goals, 32 assists and a plus-45 rating in 62 games). It would be a tough spot putting a rookie defenseman with one year of pro experience into the lineup for a team battling for a playoff spot.

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.

 

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