TORONTO, Ont. – Two of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference do battle at the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night when the host Toronto Maple Leafs tangle with the Original Six-rival Detroit Red Wings. The Maple Leafs come in with points in eight of their last nine games (7-1-1), a stretch that includes a pair of victories over the Red Wings. Detroit has been no slouch itself, having gone 7-1-2 in its last 10 despite back-to-back extra-time losses to Toronto and the Florida Panthers.
The Red Wings struck twice on the power play in the opening period against the Panthers, but couldn't muster anything over the final 45 minutes of regulation and overtime and ultimately fell in a shootout - dropping to 1-5 in the bonus format. Such a prolonged drought won't fly against Toronto, which ranks second in the NHL at 3.4 goals per game. Saturday marks the start of a three-game homestand for the Maple Leafs, who are 11-7-0 at the ACC.
TV: 7 p.m., FS-D (Detroit), CBC (Toronto), TVA
ABOUT THE RED WINGS (17-6-7): Detroit finds itself among the conference leaders through its first 30 games, but it may have a favorable schedule to thank for that. The Red Wings have played 18 times at Joe Louis Arena heading into the weekend, and they'll return to Detroit for a four-game homestand after Saturday night's tilt in Toronto before taking a holiday break. The slate gets a lot tougher from there, as Detroit comes out of the break with eight road contests in a nine-game span leading into mid-January.
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (16-9-3): As good as Toronto has been on the offensive end - and it has been one of the league's best teams in that area, especially over the last month - it has a lot of work to do in its own zone. "We've got away from playing the right way," coach Randy Carlyle told reporters. "That's all-inclusive in a bunch of areas, not just defensive." The Maple Leafs have also benefited from some luck on offense, shooting 9.5 percent in 5-on-5 situations - good for second in the league.
1. Four of the teams' last eight encounters have gone to extra time.
2. Maple Leafs F Phil Kessel has four goals in five December games and leads the club with 15 tallies.
3. Detroit D Danny DeKeyser, who missed Friday's game with an upper-body injury, is questionable versus Toronto.