Tonight, the Detroit Red Wings are heading to Canada to renew their original six rivalry with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The rivalry was temporarily suspended last year, as the teams were separated by the updated divisions because of COVID-19. December 21, 2019 was the last time the two faced off. The Leafs skated away with a 4-1 home win over the Red Wings.
However, Toronto isn’t playing that same (very bad) 2019-20 Detroit squad – the Wings are off to a solid start, propelled by rookies Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond, as well as other members of the core.
The Maple Leafs
Project lineup, according to NHL.com
Michael Bunting — Auston Matthews — William Nylander
Alexander Kerfoot — John Tavares — Mitchell Marner
Pierre Engvall — David Kampf – Ondrej Kase
Nick Ritchie — Jason Spezza — Wayne Simmonds
Morgan Rielly — Travis Dermott
Jake Muzzin — TJ Brodie
Rasmus Sandin — Timothy Liljegren
The Leafs are treading water right now. It’s too early in the season to write off such a talented roster, but through eight games, they have struggled to live up to pre-season expectations. The pressure is especially high after an early departure from last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.
William Nylander leads the team in points (three goals and three assists). Auston Matthews is off to a slow start, nabbing just a goal and an assist through five games. However, the talented center missed the start of the season recovering from wrist surgery. He’s always a threat to watch on the ice, and he’s bound to pick up steam sometime soon.
Toronto will start Former Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek between the pipes after missing six games due to a groin injury,
The Red Wings
Projected lineup, according to NHL.com
Vladislav Namestnikov — Dylan Larkin — Lucas Raymond
Robby Fabbri — Pius Suter — Filip Zadina
Sam Gagner — Michael Rasmussen — Adam Erne
Carter Rowney — Mitchell Stephens — Givani Smith
Danny DeKeyser — Moritz Seider
Nick Leddy — Filip Hronek
Marc Staal — Troy Stecher
The Red Wings will be without their leading goal scorer Tyler Bertuzzi due to his continued refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19. He is the only player in the NHL that has yet to take the jab (some are in the process of becoming fully vaccinated).
Joe Veleno has been called up after a good start with the Grand Rapids Griffins – his three goals currently lead the team. It’s unclear if Veleno will start in the lineup tonight. If he does, he could find himself in a familiar role at center, or as a winger among the bottom-six. Either way, the addition of Veleno continues the youth movement that seems to finally be arriving in Detroit.
The Red Wings will have to lean on some depth scoring, as the highly effective top-line will be missing Bertuzzi. The second line has had a quiet start to the year after a pretty successful preseason – they’ll be key for the Wings tonight.