TORONTO – One victory. One measly victory.
That’s all the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings managed between them during the first 10 days or so with the HBO cameras rolling behind the scenes. As a result, there won’t be much happiness on display from either side during the second episode of "24/7," which airs Sunday on Sportsnet (7:30 p.m. EST).
And with the teams set to face one another at Air Canada Centre on Saturday, it was no surprise that both were focused on trying to pull out of a funk. Toronto and Detroit each registered a victory in their last game on Thursday – the Leafs beat Phoenix 2-1 in a shootout while the Wings beat Calgary 3-2 in overtime – and were excited about the prospect of stringing together a pair of victories.
"It’s a very, very important game for both teams," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "All you’ve got to do is look at the standings. Also, when you haven’t been great, you’re trying to get some traction as a group. That’s important for us here tonight."
Toronto was expected to send out the same lineup against the Red Wings as it had for the win over Phoenix. That meant James Reimer would start a third straight game in net for the first time all year and defencemen Paul Ranger and Mark Fraser would each be scratched.
Detroit was expected to counter with Jonas Gustavsson, a former Leaf, between the pipes.
The Red Wings have been hit heavily by injuries. The walking wounded include Henrik Zetterberg (back), Stephen Weiss (sports hernia), Jimmy Howard (knee), Johan Franzen (concussion), Justin Abdelkader (concussion), Darren Helm (shoulder) and Gustav Nyquist (groin).
While Toronto has dealt with its fair share of ailments this season, it never got quite that bad. Even still, Leafs coach Randy Carlyle sees the parallels between the teams.
"You have the hockey package at home and you’re immersed in the game right from the beginning of the season," Carlyle said. "I see a lot of similarities in where they’re at and where we are at. We’ve got inconsistency in our play, flooded with injuries and not the personnel I’m sure that they had on their whiteboard through the summer months."
Another common thread is the HBO cameras. Both sides seem to be settled in with the travelling camera crews that are essentially documenting every move they make at the rink and even some that happen elsewhere.
"It’s a little bit different than what you’re used to," Red Wings forward Daniel Alfredsson said. "The cameras are on you all the time and it takes a few days or a week to get used to it. Once you get comfortable with it, it’s a non-issue.
"I think it’s great for the game."
Saturday’s game will be featured in the third episode of the "24/7" series while the Detroit/Toronto clash in the Jan. 1 Winter Classic will make up the finale.
PROJECTED LEAFS LINEUP
Jimmy Howard, Detroit’s No. 1 goalie, skated Saturday morning and indicated that the chances of him returning from a knee injury to play in the Jan. 1 Winter Classic are "75-25" … Carlyle hinted that winger Colton Orr could return from an elbow injury for Monday’s game at the New York Rangers. Saturday’s game will be the 10th that he’s missed in a row … This is the 645th meeting between Toronto and Detroit, but the first since March 18, 1998 as division rivals … Pavel Datsyuk is five points shy of 800 for his NHL career while Babcock is eight wins from No. 400 as coach of the Red Wings … The Leafs are 7-3 in games that go past regulation this season while Detroit is 2-9 … Former Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson will play his 81 career regular-season game against the Leafs. He has 33 goals and 71 points so far.
"I’m more concerned about winning hockey games than building a rivalry. The rivalry is something that develops when you have competitive teams and you play a number of times against one another." – Leafs coach Randy Carlyle on whether there’s a budding rivalry with Detroit.
"I’m not looking forward to it, actually. They’re two pretty good players that are pretty hard to play against. I think it’s important as a team that we’re always aware of who is on the ice." – rookie Leafs defenceman Morgan Rielly on facing Pavel Datsyuk and Daniel Alfredsson for the first time.