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Leafs vs. Red Wings Preview: Nylander’s Back

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Our Thunder God returns for his season debut.

Toronto Maple Leafs v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Detroit Red Wings: Game 29

Time: 7:00 PM

Location: Scotiabank Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: Sportsnet

Opponent SBNation Site: Winging It In Motown

Widely expected to be a bad team coming into this year, the Detroit Red Wings have probably been slightly better than forecasted. They come to town right at Bettman .500, and while that’s certainly not good, it—

What was that?

No seriously did you hear something?

Hm. Anyway, the Red Wings are actually just three points out of a Wild Card spot. The team really ought to tank harder to get one of those marquee draft picks that are so important to a rebuild. But—

It sounds like....thunder? Like the Norse God of Thunder is coming.

Maple Leafs

Forward Lines

Patrick Marleau - Auston Matthews - William Nylander
Zach Hyman - John Tavares - Mitch Marner
Andreas Johnsson - Nazem Kadri - Kasperi Kapanen
Tyler Ennis - Par Lindholm - Connor Brown

Defence Pairings

Morgan Rielly - Ron Hainsey
Jake Gardiner - Nikita Zaitsev
Travis Dermott - Igor Ozhiganov

Goaltenders

Garret Sparks

Frederik Andersen

That’s right. An oddly apt 29 games into the season, William Andrew Michael Junior Nylander Atelius is back. I don’t want to overhype this, because after all he is but one player and this is his first game trying to shake the rust off, but on the other hand, Nylander is dope as hell.

Beyond that, this is the same old lovable, electric, defensively questionable cast of skaters to which we’ve become accustomed. Will Auston sleepwalk through half the game and then score the most murderous goal you’ve ever seen? Maybe!

The goaltending is a slight surprise, but it looks like Sparks is getting a start and Freddie’s getting rest.

Detroit Red Wings

Forward Lines

Gustav Nyquist - Dylan Larkin - Justin Abdelkader

Andreas Athanasiou - Frans Nielsen - Thomas Vanek

Luke Glendening - Jacob de la Rose - Michael Rasmussen

Martin Frk - Wade Megan - Christoffer Ehn

Defence Pairings

Dennis Cholowski - Mike Green

Niklas Kronwall - Nick Jensen

Jonathan Ericsson - Luke Witkowski

Goaltenders

Jimmy Howard

Jonathan Bernier

Well, here they are again. The Wings mostly have the classic bad team problem where everyone is playing about one line too high, excepting maybe Dylan Larkin, who might push towards being a legit 1C. He and Gustav Nyquist have started the year as a potent pairing. The player who impresses me every time we play Detroit is Anthony Mantha—who has both size and hands, though his production isn’t quite top tier—but one of the aforementioned hands is injured, so he’s out. So is Tyler Bertuzzi, who is serving a suspension.

On defence, Dennis Cholowski is the great hope of the future, holding down a top-pair job at age 20 and doing it...okayish enough. Everyone else in the defence group is at least 28 and most of them are not all that good now, so it’s not a murderer’s row back there.

Jimmy Howard has had an impressive run in net; he’s cooled off a bit lately but is still sitting at an impressive .920 for the year. If I’m Ken Holland, I really want to see what St. Louis would give me for him. Just sayin’.

Anyway, this has the makings of a trap game. Detroit is bad but not hopeless, emotions will be running high for Nylander’s return, and the Leafs are coming off a couple of sloppy wins where they got away with four points because their shooters and goaltending were outstanding. All the same: the Leafs are good, and Nylander is back.

Go Leafs Go.