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The Red Wings are out of town for the final time before the holiday break. The team travels to Toronto for an Atlantic Division showdown with their fellow Original 6 franchise. These two clubs have met twice already this season and both turned out to be thumpings from Auston Matthews & Co. Detroit fell 5-2 back Oct. 12 and 6-0 on Nov. 27.

Detroit will be looking to flip the script and churn out two points against the streaky Leafs.

Projected Lines

Detroit Red Wings

This is not a drill! Filip Zadina is slated to play first-line right wing along side Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha. Zadina and Mantha have formed some nice chemistry over the past few games, but it’s the opportunity to play with a high-end center like Larkin that can really have an effect on Zadina’s impact. According to Natural Stat Trick, Zadina and Larkin have only played 11 minutes together at 5-on-5. That number should (hopefully) see an up-tick over the next few games.

On defense, Brian Lashoff will dress for the first time this season. The veteran blue-liner has been a healthy scratch since being called-up but now gets a chance. Sitting out is Alex Biega.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Since promoting Sheldon Keefe to head coach, the Leafs have been on a roll. They’ve went 9-4-0 under his watch and rediscovered the offensively creativity in their game. Unlike the last matchup, Alexander Kerfoot will be in the lineup. Kerfoot missed the Nov. 27 game due to suspension.

Pierre Engvall on the third-line has been a nice little story. The 23-year-old has produced 6 points in 14 games since being called up. Pretty decent production for a player who came out of nowhere.

Three Thoughts

1.) Reassembled top-6

The top-6 is seeing a huge shake-up. As mentioned before, Filip Zadina will be getting a look on Larkin’s wing. The combination of speed, playmaking, and finishing ability should bode well for their scoring output. Should be an entertaining night from the trio.

Even more interesting, though, is the new second-line. Tyler Bertuzzi has practically spent the entire season next to Larkin. How will the noted “Junkyard dog” perform next to a less offensively-dynamic Valtteri Filppula? The Guelph connection between Bertuzzi and Robby Fabbri, however, is being rekindled.

Keep an eye on that second-line. Their play together could dictate whether or not the new first-line sticks.

2.) Big night for the fourth-line

Unlike the top-6, the bottom-6 looks exactly the same. It’s hard to dispute that, considering the fourth-line’s strong performance on Tuesday against Columbus. Adam Erne netted his first two goals of the season, with linemates Frans Nielsen and Brendan Perlini chipping in on the first goal.

Depth scoring has been an issue for Detroit all year. Any scrap of production they can get from the bottom-6 is a win at this point. Hopefully the Nielsen line can carry over the momentum from Tuesday into tonight’s matchup.

3.) Bernier vs. Hutchinson

Detroit is on the first half of a back-to-back, so starting goaltenders are key to follow. Jimmy Howard, who has been with the Grand Rapids Griffins on a conditioning stint the past week, is expected to get his first NHL action since being injured against these very same Maple Leafs on Sunday against the Coyotes. So that means Jonathan Bernier will get the start against his former team.

In goal for Toronto will be Michael Hutchinson. Hutchinson has had a horrid year, posting a .876 save percentage through seven games this season. If there is ever a night Detroit would finally beat this Maple Leafs squad, it might just be tonight with Hutchinson in goal.