Matchup: Toronto Maple Leafs vs Detroit Red Wings
Venue: The Big House (Michigan Stadium), Ann Arbor, MI
Time: 1:00pm EST
Television: National- NBC, Canada- CBC
It’s the day we’ve waited for all season; the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium. The Detroit Red Wings, (18-14-9, 45 points, 4th place Atlantic Division), come into today’s game off of a rough loss two night ago to the Nashville Predators, in Jimmy Howard’s return to the net after more than two weeks out with a bum knee. That came on the heels of a big win over the Florida Panthers, a team that has spelled trouble for the Wings all season, so the inconsistency in the Red Wings’ play seems to carry on. They’ve received big boosts to their forward lines, though, in the forms of the captain himself, Henrik Zetterberg, speedy center Darren Helm, and big-bodied checker Justin Abdelkader. They’ll have to keep their feet moving for a full 60 minutes to take it fully to a Leafs team that has somewhat struggled at this point in the season.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, (20-16-5, 45 points, 5th place Atlantic Division), come into today’s game having finally caught Detroit in the standings, technically having the 4th place tie-breaker in the form of more regulation-overtime wins. They had an extra day off, compared to the Wings’ 1 day off, and are coming off of a big win over the Carolina Hurricanes, putting them on a 2-game win streak, so they’ll be riding all kinds of momentum coming onto the ice today. The last time these two teams met, the first matchup between the two of the season, the Red Wings were able to squeak out a 5-4 victory, finally ending their shootout loss drought dating back into last season, so that may swing a little momentum in their direction.
As far as injuries go, the Red Wings are looking far healthier than they have in recent weeks. Jonathan Ericsson is still out for at least January with fractured ribs. Johan Franzen is still experiencing concussion symptoms, and has been ruled out for the game, and Stephen Weiss is still expected to be back some time after the Olympic break. For the Leafs, center Trevor Smith (hand), and center Dave Bolland (hand) are both out.
It’s expected that Jimmy Howard will get the start in net for the Red Wings, given that he was dead-set on having the game against Nashville be his comeback date from injury. The first half of the season hasn’t been kind to Howard, putting up a .906 save percentage and 2.76 GAA. He’s had a slew of things weighing on him for some weeks now, including the HBO crews, so let’s hope he’s been able to clear his head enough to become the goaltender he was when he led us into the playoffs at the end of last season.
The Leafs will counter with Jonathan Bernier between the pipes. At the halfway mark of the season, he’s posted a .930 save percentage and a 2.42 GAA for Toronto. He put up 25 saves and 1 goal against in the first season match between these two teams, after the Red Wings chased James Reimer out of the net after the first period. He’ll surely be riding the momentum from the team’s last win, and the Wings will have to scoop up any of the garbage he lets out around the net.
Anyone who happens to be at the game, post your pictures to the Facebook page and we’ll share as many as we can during and after the game! And as always, GO WINGS!