The Detroit Red Wings have reached the playoffs for 22 consecutive seasons, but that streak is in danger as they prepare to host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night in a rematch of the Winter Classic.
Few teams have been decimated by injuries as much as the Red Wings, who have lost five of their last seven (2-4-1) to drop into 10th place in the Eastern Conference - three points behind the New York Rangers for the second wild card. The Original Six rivals have split two meetings - each decided via shootout.
The Maple Leafs have alternated wins and losses on their five-game road trip that concludes in Detroit and are locked in a tight three-way battle with Montreal and Tampa Bay for second place in the Atlantic Division. Toronto was unable to overcome an early three-goal deficit in Sunday's 4-2 loss in Washington, which came three days after they rallied from two goals down to knock off Los Angeles.
"You can't spot a team three goals," goaltender James Reimer said. "And it cost us."
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, RSNO (Ottawa), FSN Detroit
ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (36-25-8): Goaltender Jonathan Bernier had to exit Thursday night's win at Los Angeles due to injury and an MRI exam on Monday revealed the starting netminder has a groin strain and is listed as day-to day. Reimer stopped all 31 shots he faced in relief of Bernier versus the Kings but he was pierced for six goals two nights earlier in San Jose and coughed up three goals in the first nine minutes against Washington.
“I think Reims has been solid for us all year whenever he’s been in net," captain Dion Phaneuf said. "Both of our goalies have been solid and given us a chance to win.
ABOUT THE RED WINGS (30-24-13): After watching its offense erupt in a 7-4 victory over New Jersey on March 7, Detroit has dropped three of its last four games and scored only three goals in the process. The battered lineup, already missing standouts Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk along with a host of other players, took another hit when Justin Abdelkader was injured in Sunday's loss to Chicago.
“I think we could play better,” forward Johan Franzen said. "Maybe we need to believe in ourselves a little bit more. It’s like we’re not all there. It doesn't look like we all believe in it."
1. Red Wings G Jimmy Howard is 0-1-1 with a 2.83 goals-against average in three starts against Toronto.
2. Reimer has allowed six goals on 40 starts in two career appearances versus Detroit.
3. Detroit F Gustav Nyquist has 12 goals and 22 points in his last 19 games.