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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, March 18th (All times Eastern)
Toronto Maple Leafs (36-25-8) at Detroit Red Wings (30-24-13), 7:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The struggling Detroit Red Wings will try to pick up the pace offensively when they welcome the Toronto Maple Leafs for Tuesday's Atlantic Division battle at Joe Louis Arena.
The Red Wings have scored just three goals over their last four games. The club is 1-3-0 during that stretch, with the lone win coming in a shootout decision against visiting Edmonton on Friday.
The offensive issues are no surprise considering the Red Wings are still playing without a host of key forwards, including captain Henrik Zetterberg and Russian superstar Pavel Datsyuk.
Detroit's sagging offense is making the club's push for a 23rd straight playoff appearance a difficult task. The Red Wings, who last missed the postseason during the spring of 1990, enter Tuesday's action three points behind the New York Rangers for the last playoff berth in the East.
"You can't look ahead at all," Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser told his team's official website. "You have to take it one game at a time. Every game, if you don't get points it could come back and haunt you. It could be the last game of the year, but we don't want to be at that point. We want to be in the playoffs after 82 games."
Detroit managed just one goal in Sunday's 4-1 road loss against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Red Wings trailed the contest 2-1 after 40 minutes before the defending Stanley Cup champions salted away the win by scoring the only two goals of the third period.
"I thought we were in a good situation after two," Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said. "We were set up and we let it slip away."
Jimmy Howard stopped 26 shots for the reeling Red Wings, who have lost five of their last seven games.
Adding to Detroit's injury problems, forward Justin Abdelkader left Sunday's game with a lower-body injury and did not return. The Red Wings recalled forward Landon Ferraro from the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL to take over Abdelkader's place in the roster if he is unable to play on Tuesday.
Ferraro, the son of former NHLer Ray Ferraro, was a second-round pick by Detroit in 2009, but has yet to make his NHL debut. He has 13 goals and 15 assists in 60 games for the Griffins this season.
Howard expects to get the start for Detroit on Tuesday. He is 0-1-1 with a 2.82 goals against average in his career versus the Maple Leafs.
Toronto enters this Original Six clash having lost two of its last three games, but with 80 points, the Leafs are occupying the first of the two wild card spots in the East. Toronto is four points ahead of the eighth-seeded Rangers.
The Maple Leafs fell to 2-2-0 on a five-game road trip after dropping a 4-2 decision at Washington on Sunday. Toronto fell behind 3-0 in the first 10 minutes of the game and never recovered.
Dion Phaneuf and Troy Bodie lit the lamp for the Maple Leafs, while James Reimer stopped 29 shots in defeat.
Reimer could start again on Tuesday with No. 1 netminder Jonathan Bernier currently dealing with a groin strain. Bernier suffered the injury in Thursday's win over Los Angeles and was unable to dress for Sunday's tilt in D.C.
Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle updated Bernier's status after practice on Monday.
"Jonathan Bernier went for an MRI today and it was revealed that he has a low- grade groin strain," Carlyle said. "We don't believe it is week-to-week but rather day-to-day."
If Bernier is unable to dress for tonight's tilt, Drew MacIntyre will serve as the backup once again.
Toronto is 14-14-7 as the visiting team this season. After completing its swing on Tuesday, the Leafs will play seven of their next nine games on home ice.
Detroit is just 13-11-9 at home this season, but the Wings have won two straight at the Joe and are 3-0-1 in their last four games in Motown.
This is the third of four meetings between the Red Wings and Leafs this season. The clubs have split both encounters so far, with each team picking up a shootout win.
Tuesday's game marks the first encounter between the clubs since Toronto recorded a 3-2 win on Jan. 1 in the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium.
03/18 10:43:12 ET