Original Six rivals meet in Hall of Fame Game
Saturday, 11.07.2009 / 7:00 PM
RED WINGS (7-4-3) at MAPLE LEAFS (2-7-5)
Detroit 5-2-3; Toronto 2-4-4
This is the only meeting between the Original Six franchises this season. Toronto beat the Red Wings, 3-2, last season in the first game for both teams.
It's the Hall of Fame Game on Hockey Night in Canada. It's a big Red Wings weekend in Toronto as Steve Yzerman goes into the Hockey Hall of Fame with Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille, members of Detroit's 2002 Cup championship team. And, for a little sideshow action, this is also the only time Mike Babcock (Detroit and Team Canada) and Ron Wilson (Toronto and Team USA) will coach against each other before the Olympics.
What goaltending problems? What defensive woes? Chris Osgood had his annual name-dragging-through-the-mud experience last month, but that's all over now. After a horrific performance in Vancouver, where Osgood allowed two goals on four shots in just seven minutes before being yanked, he has allowed two goals on his last 84 shots for three straight wins.
He's had to be good because it's not as if the Wings are lighting it up anymore. They beat Calgary, Boston and San Jose by a combined 7-2. Osgood's save percentage is up to .910 and his goals-against average is down to 2.54. Helping Osgood, of course, is the Red Wings' renewed focus on stringent defense. They had their defensive lapses last season and early this season, but with Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula on IR they have had to tighten up. They've done it well.
"We're not going to win the same way we did before," Babcock said after Thursday's shootout win over San Jose. "We don't have the team to do that."
Don't look now Toronto, but your Maple Leafs might just be figuring
|Kessel working through fatigue. (Getty)
this thing out. With Friday's 3-2 win in Carolina, one that included a comeback from an early 2-0 deficit, the Leafs now have points in each of their last six games (2-0-4). Rookie goalie Jonas Gustavsson
was stellar with 34 saves for the win Friday, but since this is the back end of a back-to-back we might see Vesa Toskala. It'll be interesting to see how Phil Kessel
plays considering he appeared exhausted during Friday's game, which was only his second since returning from shoulder surgery. Kessel, though, still managed an assist on Jason Blake's game-winning power-play goal 11:36 into the third.
"He's huffing and puffing, especially when kind of I shortened our bench," Wilson said. "I was asking, 'Can you go?' He would only go out there for 25-30 seconds and then he'd get off, but he was dangerous a few times. It's only a matter of time before the puck goes in the net for him."
Osgood has been on fire as evidenced by his last three games in which he's stopped 82 of 84 shots, but Henrik Zetterberg has goals in two straight games and three of the last four and Tomas Holmstrom has goals in three of the last five games. Toronto defenseman Tomas Kaberle
had another assist Friday giving him 16 for the season, the most among defensemen. Gustavsson has stopped 64 of his last 68 shots and he hasn't lost in regulation (2-0-3) since returning from a groin injury.
The Red Wings are without Franzen (knee), Filppula (wrist) and Andreas Lilja (post-concussion symptoms). Brad May (eye) has been cleared, but might not be in the lineup tonight. The Leafs are without defenseman Mike Van Ryan (knee), who is out for the season.
The Red Wings are scoring 2.93 goals per game. They led the NHL with 3.52 goals per game last season and have scored better than 3.00 goals per game since 1999. Meanwhile, Toronto is allowing 3.79 goals per game and has given up more than 3.00 goals per game since 2005. … Detroit winger Dan Cleary is stuck on 99 career goals. He has one this season and it came in the second game of the season, Oct. 3 against St. Louis in Stockholm. … Toronto has given up the first goal in 13 of 14 games this season and is being outscored, 17-5, in the first period.
"The first five or six minutes, I thought we were skating and dictating the play and whenever they scored we seemed to sag at that point and maybe feeling sorry for ourselves," Wilson said of the Leafs' going down 2-0 after the first period Friday. "We have to get mad at some point. I said to the team, 'We only have one win in 13 games, when is somebody going to upset here?' We had a good start to the second period, but we certainly made it difficult for us."