Maple Leafs-Red Wings Preview
Home hockey has been more enjoyable for Detroit over the past five weeks, and one more win will send the Red Wings off on a four-game road trip with their first perfect homestand all season.
It comes Sunday night with a soft opponent in the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have one win in 13 games without a day of rest.
With Saturday's 3-2 overtime win over the New York Rangers, the Red Wings (34-23-11) are 7-1-1 at home since the All-Star break with 3.11 goals per game. Prior to that, they'd been 11-10-5 with 2.46 per game and a five-game home losing streak heading into the break.
The latest win followed Thursday's 3-2 victory over Winnipeg, and Darren Helm scored twice against the Rangers and notched an assist versus the Jets after managing two points in his previous 10 games. Justin Abdelkader has four points in his last three games after managing one in his previous seven.
"This is kind of the time that the leaders need to step up and I think they've been doing that," Helm told the team's official website. "Obviously, (Tuesday's 5-3 loss in) Columbus was a disappointment, the first period (against) Winnipeg was a little scary but, that was kind of a moment that we looked at each other and knew we had to dig in and find a way to win some games and put some points up, and make a final push."
Detroit had dropped three in a row overall prior to the win over the Jets, and it responded by outshooting the Rangers and Jets 78-50.
"I think a better effort to make sure we get the pucks and pucks to the net create chaos and I think we've done a good job of creating chaos in the last number of games, just getting them to the net and making sure we have bodies to the net," coach Jeff Blashill said.
The winning streak has also featured a turnaround from Petr Mrazek, who managed consecutive 23-save efforts on 25 shots after posting a 4.75 goals-against average and .846 save percentage in his previous three starts. He's 1-1-0 with a .945 save percentage in two career starts against the Maple Leafs, both of which came in Toronto.
The Red Wings have won both meetings this season by a 6-1 total with Abdelkader scoring half of Detroit's goals and contributing an assist. Henrik Zetterberg has the inverse of that with a goal and three assists.
Toronto (22-34-11) is trying to bounce back from Saturday's 4-0 loss in Ottawa, which has the Maple Leafs at 3-12-2 since last winning consecutive games Feb. 2 and 4. They've allowed 3.59 goals per game in that time and 4.37 on a 1-7-0 away stretch.
"I didn't think we were competitive enough," said coach Mike Babcock, whose team is 1-10-2 in the second game of back-to-back sets. "I thought they were ready to go in the first period and obviously the first two shifts of the second and the third we gave up goals. I don't think we made it very hard on (Senators goaltender Craig) Anderson at all."
Even so, the Maple Leafs haven't been outshot by their last seven opponents with a 32.0-25.0 advantage.
Garret Sparks faced the Senators, so Jonathan Bernier figures to be in goal in Detroit. Bernier is 1-8-0 with a 3.49 GAA and .887 save percentage in his last 11 games, though he's posted 1.94 and .938 marks over a 4-2-2 span against the Red Wings.
Niklas Kronwall's status is in doubt after the Detroit defenseman left Saturday's game with a lower-body injury.