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Game Live Blog, Red Wings at Maple Leafs

Pregame: John Keating just compared the Wings/Leafs matchup to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver’s marriage due to contentiousness and rareness of contact. Oh Keating, why you so weird?

Apparently the Wings haven’t won in Toronto since November 2002.

Ken and Mickey talking up Jiri Hudler’s greatly improved offense this season. He has 11 goals already this season– in all of last season he only had 10.

Keating and Larry Murphy in studio discussing the realignment kerfuffle. I’ll give this its own separate article either later or tomorrow.

1st period:

15:30 Phil Kessel gets a breakaway and Jimmy Howard stops him, but Ian White is holding Kessel up so the refs award a penalty shot. Kessel scores high glove side on the penalty shot.

11:49 Penalty to Henrik Zetterberg for holding.

11:41 Goal for Dion Phaneuf. Danny Cleary makes a terrible clearing attempt from behind the net, and Phaneuf picks it up and makes the shot from the right point.

8:24 Goal for Dave Steckel. 3 on 3 rush, White misplays the block attempt on Kessel’s pass, and Steckel has a mostly empty net to flip it in.

Mike Babcock calls timeout.

5:28 Howard seems to be awake now– one hell of a save on Nazem Kadri.

3:20 3rd line working hard pressuring in the offensive zone. This seems promising.

Things looked vaguely better through the end of the first. So far the most promising things I’ve seen have been the saves Howard has made after the goals were given up.

On the other hand, the stats they showed during intermission show that the Leafs defense blocked 10 shots to the Wings’ 1. Ouch.

2nd period:

19:18 Hooking penalty to Mikhail Grabovsky. Drawn by heavy pressure by the first line.

13:20 Not a lot of sustained pressure going on by the Wings so far in the 2nd. They’re getting more shots than the Leafs are, but they aren’t chasing down the rebounds for second chances or screening Gustavsson.

13:14 GOAL for The Todd! Nik Kronwall holds in at the blue line, Datsyuk evades a Toronto defender, and Bertuzzi knocks it in. Goal being reviewed to see if it was knocked in with a high stick.

Referee Brad Watson’s mic isn’t working, but all we need to see is that he pointed to the center ice circle. GOAL!

8:06 The Leafs have yet to get a shot on goal in the 2nd. The Wings have 9.

4:11 GOAL for Kronwall! Mule circles behind the net and hands the puck off to Kronwall, Kronners cuts between Phaneuf and Gustavsson to tap it in.

Shots were 14 to 2 for the Wings in the 2nd period. That’s more like it!

3rd period:

15:28 GOAL for Jiri Hudler! Brad Stuart’s shot from the point rebounds and Hudler pounces on it.

15:05 Howard BIG save on Clarke MacArthur breakaway!

12:50 Goal for Joffrey Lupul, roof shot. Off a deep zone faceoff not well-controlled by Detroit.

1:14 Empty net for Detroit.

0:59.8 Leafs call timeout.

0:49.7 Gustavsson makes a big save on Mule.

No good with the extra attacker. Leafs win 4-3. Total shots 40-18 Detroit.

Next up: Wings at Blackhawks, tomorrow at 7:30.

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Game Preview: Red Wings at Maple Leafs, 7:00 PM

(Original Six matchup against a team who isn’t the Blackhawks, woo-hoo!)

The Red Wings seek to kick off their annual fathers trip with a win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.

Darren Helm and Tomas Holmstrom, as expected, won’t be in the lineup tonight, but both insist they can play tomorrow at Chicago. If one (or both) can go tomorrow, Gustav Nyquist will be sent back down to the Griffins.

Meanwhile, tonight’s forward lines look like this: Franzen-Datsyuk-Bertuzzi, Filppula-Zetterberg-Hudler, Miller-Abdelkader-Cleary, Conner-Emmerton-Nyquist. The only change on defense is that Jakub Kindl will be on the third pairing in place of Mike Commodore (healthy scratch). Jimmy Howard will be starting in net, and he’s looking forward to going for his 100th career win with his dad there to see it. “To get a chance to do it in front of the dads and have my dad in attendance, it would be really special,” Howard said.

Pavel Datsyuk, meanwhile, is looking forward to the crazy (in a good way) hockey atmosphere at the Air Canada Centre. “It will be fun to play. We’re close towns and big hockey towns, both. So fun to play. Atmosphere unbelievable and fans unbelievable.”

The Wings expect a challenge from Toronto’s surging offense, led by Joffrey Lupul (18 goals) and Phil Kessel (23 goals). “Those are two guys that have been clicking pretty well from the start of the season,” said Ian White. “I’ve watched some tape of what they like to do; Kessel is a shooter with a quick snap shot, and we definitely have to take his time and space away. And Lupul is just as dangerous it seems.” Defenseman Dion Phaneuf will be in the lineup, although probably wearing a protective mask after taking a puck to the mouth in the Leafs’ 4-0 win over Winnipeg on Thursday. “He kind of looks like Two-Face from Batman, that’s how bad it was,” said Luke Schenn. Defenseman Mike Komisarek and right wing Mike Brown will also be back in the lineup, returning from a broken arm and an undisclosed injury, respectively. Colby Armstrong, John-Michael Liles, and Tyler Bozak remain on injured reserve, however.

Jonas “The Monster” Gustavsson will be starting goalie for the Leafs this evening. (How come the Leafs’ goalies get the cool intimidating nicknames? I mean, we did rent CuJo from them for awhile, but still.)

You can catch tonight’s game on Fox Sports Detroit or on CBC, if you’d like to play the “my eyes, my eyes!” game when you see whatever monstrosity of a suit Don Cherry will be wearing for intermission.

Let’s go, Red Wings! *clap clap clapclapclap*

Off Day Odds and Ends

This really seems like the longest we’ve gone without a game in quite some time, doesn’t it?

1. Darren Helm and Tomas Holmstrom have both been back on the ice for practice with the rest of the team. Ansar Khan of MLive reported on Twitter that they’re both confirmed out for sure for Saturday’s game at Toronto. Both Homer and Helmer think they’ll be ready for Sunday’s game at Chicago, but Mike Babcock was non-committal.

2. Jakub Kindl will be back in the lineup against the Maple Leafs. Mike Commodore will likely be the defenseman removed from the lineup.

3. I suppose congratulations are in order for the six players who won the fan vote to be the “starters” for the NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa on January 29th. That would be forwards Daniel Alfredsson, Milan Michalek, and Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators, defenseman Erik Karlsson, also of Ottawa, defensman Dion Phaneuf of the Leafs, and goaltender Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins. Thomas has a 1.90 goals against average (currently 3rd in league) and a .940 save percentage (currently second in league). Those are all-star numbers by anyone’s standards. The other guys… well. The voting was done completely by internet, with close to 24 million votes cast. The NHL has not released the I.P. addresses of the votes to tally how many of them came from computers in Ottawa running vote-vote-vote shell scripts. And seriously, there are no starters from the entire Western Conference?

The rest of the All-Stars will be named by the NHL and that list will be released on January 12th.

4. More heartfelt congratulations are in order for Gustav Nyquist, the only Grand Rapids Griffin (even though he’s currently on the Wings’ roster) named to the AHL All-Star Game.

5. Congratulations are also in order for the “Vote For Jimmy” write-in campaign to get Jimmy Howard named as an All-Star starter. He wound up in 6th place among all goalies with 192,685 votes, which, for a write-in, is pretty impressive. I would be pretty shocked if the League didn’t invite him when the list comes out next week.

But here’s my confession: I never once voted for Jimmy to go to the All-Star Game. I think he absolutely deserves to go. I think I get more and more impressed by him every time I see him play. At this point in the season he’s been without a doubt the team MVP and he’d be on my shortlist for Vezina Trophy candidates. But doesn’t he deserve a few days off? He’s started 34 of the Wings’ 39 games this season. The All-Star Game is really just a meaningless exhibition. Granted, 6 total goalies will be at the game and each will only play one period, but it seems like it would be better for the team in the long run if he could just take a small break. The long grind of February and March games is looming, with hopefully a long playoff run beyond that. A short break could be a useful thing.

6. Speaking of Jimmy Howard, his next win will be the 100th of his career.

7. The Red Wings-related Twitter feeds (at least the unofficial ones) were practically exploding Wednesday afternoon with news that the NHL had “confirmed” that the 2013 Winter Classic would be between the Wings and Leafs at Michigan Stadium. As the day wore on, it turned out that the only source for this was an AM sports station out of San Francisco. It seems highly likely that Detroit will indeed get to host the Classic next year. (Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports called this the second-worst kept secret of this year’s Classic.) The Leafs would certainly be a possible opponent, even though no Canadian team has yet played in the Classic. The “rule” has been that the Heritage Classic is for Canadian teams and the Winter Classic is for U.S. teams. This isn’t set in stone by any means, and Wings-Leafs would be a huge draw for the Original Six nostalgia factor. Probably the biggest thing to hammer out would be the venue. The Big House can seat 100,000 people, which means more revenue– however, that revenue would have to be shared with the University of Michigan. Comerica Park, on the other hand… Mike Illitch already owns it. No profit sharing needed. Also given that Illitch is and has always been a supporter of the city of Detroit itself, I think he’d push really hard to have the game in downtown Detroit instead of in Ann Arbor. (Also, I’m not sure that former Spartans Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader could play a game in the Big House without getting twitchy and unhappy. Just sayin’.)

Will I be at the Winter Classic? Me, the Florida native who still has to bundle up like a southerner to go outside in winter? The one who spends the entirety of January, February, and the first half of March daydreaming of spring? The one who actually perks up and feels revived on those 90 degree July days with 98% humidity?

Yeah, probably.

It’s Red Wings hockey. And I’m a fan. It’s what I do.

(Just make sure I have some thermal undies and my down-filled parka.)