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Preview: Maple Leafs host the Red Wings

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It’s a good night to have the kids, some old friends, and the neighbours over for a little Christmas cheer.

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Toronto Maple Leafs John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs vs Detroit Red Wings:

Time: 7:30 p.m.

Location: John Tavares’s Toronto house

Broadcast/Streaming: TVAS, Sportsnet, SN360, Fox Sports - Detroit

Opponent SBNation Site: Winging it in Motown

The Leafs played the Rangers last night like they thought they’d get the points given to them in the first intermission. They started fine in the first period, and then sort of wandered off like a guy in the mall that one day of the year he actually shops. They came back in time to watch Frederik Andersen handle the Rangers for them, and they did, in the end, score a bunch of goals, but tonight they need to stay focused because the Red Wings like to play the Leafs hard and likely are a bit better than the Rangers.

For inspiration the Leafs can look to Trevor Moore who is making his NHL debut on the fourth line (all lines are scoring line according to Mike Babcock). Moore will be playing a three-in-three like he’s used to. He played Friday and Saturday in Laval, where the Marlies split the series.

Moore opened the scoring in the Marlies shutout win yesterday, so maybe he can do that tonight.

Maple Leafs

From last game plus the changes announced for tonight.

Forward Lines

Patrick Marleau - Auston Matthews - Kasperi Kapanen
Andreas Johnsson - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
Connor Brown - Nazem Kadri - William Nylander
Trevor Moore - Frederik Gauthier - Par Lindholm

Defence Pairings

Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev
Travis Dermott - Justin Holl

Goaltenders

Frederik Andersen
Garret Sparks - Starter

Detroit Red Wings

From WIIM.

Forward Lines

Gustav Nyquist - Dylan Larkin - Justin Abdelkader
Luke Glendening - Frans Nielsen - Tyler Bertuzzi
Martin Frk - Wade Megan - Thomas Vanek
Michael Rasmussen - Jacob de la Rose - Christoffer Ehn

Defence Pairings

Niklas Kronwall - Nick Jensen
Trevor Daley - Dennis Cholowski
Jonathan Ericsson - Filip Hronek

Goaltenders

Jonathan Bernier - starter
Jimmy Howard


Babcock noted in his pre-game presser that Justin Holl recently told him not to confuse him being a real good guy with him accepting not playing. Babcock liked that spark, and Holl gets a chance to make an impression tonight. Martin Marincin filled in for the ailing Igor Ozhiganov for two nights where he was good and then not so much. Holl’s turn should help the Leafs decide if he’s going to be a regular player or not for the second half of the season.

But if the two ankle injuries in one week, both to left wingers, have taught us all anything, it’s that you need extra players. Babcock’s other comment today was, “Now we’ll see if our depth is as good as we say it is.” I’m pretty curious about that myself.

The last game against the Red Wings was Bernier vs Sparks, just like tonight. In that one the Leafs waited until the third period to get in the game, and then they lost it in overtime. Tonight there’s lots to prove. Sparks needs to show he should get more games like the Leafs want to give him to lighten the load on Andersen. Moore needs to show that he’s the guy who can take over for Tyler Ennis. Connor Brown needs to show he does not belong back on the fourth line, and Andreas Johnsson needs to show his glorious minutes with Mitch Marner and John Tavares last night were no fluke.

We don’t have word yet who will draw in for Ennis on the second power play, but that’s another opportunity for someone to show some skill there, just like Par Lindholm and Connor Brown have been doing taking up the PK slack for Zach Hyman.

It’s the last game before vacation, and it’s just the Red Wings, but a decisive win would be a nice present to all of us watching, so Go, Leafs, Go!