The Detroit Red Wings’ stint in the Eastern Conference has at times been difficult due to injuries, uncertainty over a string of playoff appearances continuing and a quick exit after last season’s late push got them into the postseason.
Against the Toronto Maple Leafs, though, things have been rather smooth.
The Atlantic Division foes meet Saturday night in Detroit with the Red Wings looking for a sweep in a home-and-home set.
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After Friday’s 4-1 victory at Toronto (2-3-0), Detroit (2-1-1) has gone 4-0-1 against the Maple Leafs since switching conferences.
Johan Franzen scored the first two, Henrik Zetterberg matched a career high with four assists, and Gustav Nyquist scored in his fourth straight game to open the season.
Franzen left the game late in the second period with what he referred to as a lower-body spasm and did not return, though he hopes to play Saturday.
Nyquist’s elite production stretches back to last season with 27 goals dating to Jan. 20, which is the most in the NHL and leads next-best Alex Ovechkin and Corey Perry by six. The forward has four goals in three games against Toronto in that span.
"(Nyquist and Franzen) are two pure goal-scorers so it’s easy to play with them," Zetterberg told the team’s official website. "They always find open spots and they both work really hard at creating chances for themselves."
Zetterberg, who had one point through the first three games, has 14 points in 10 games against the Maple Leafs.
"Zetterberg is a special player," Toronto captain Dion Phaneuf said. "He has put up big numbers for a lot of years, and they seemed to do a really good job tonight of moving the puck and moving off the puck. They move around the offensive zone very well and protect the puck."
The Red Wings stayed perfect on the penalty kill, thwarting two Toronto chances to improve to 12 for 12 on the season.
For the Maple Leafs, Mike Santorelli scored his first goal with his new team after signing in July as a free agent from Vancouver.
Toronto’s road shootout win in last season’s series came on New Year’s Day in Ann Arbor, so it last won in Detroit in 2008. The last nine matchups in the state of Michigan have resulted in a 6-1-2 record for Detroit dating to Feb. 8, 2001.
Toronto is making its first stop on a three-game road trip with another back-to-back set coming Tuesday and Wednesday against the New York Islanders and Ottawa, so both of the Maple Leafs’ goaltenders could continue to see work.
James Reimer started Friday and fell to 0-3-0 in four games against the Red Wings, but Jonathan Bernier is expected to play Saturday.
Bernier has struggled in the early going, allowing nine goals in two starts and carrying a 4.52 goals-against average and .882 save percentage in three appearances. He allowed four goals in his last start against the Red Wings on March 29, but he was also in net for the win in Ann Arbor, making 41 saves.
Jimmy Howard hasn’t needed any help in the net for Detroit, posting a 1.72 GAA and .934 save percentage in four starts. His numbers are nearly identical against Toronto, but backup Jonas Gustavsson will make his first start of the season. He stopped 19 shots in a 5-4 shootout win at Toronto on Dec. 21 in his only appearance against his former team.
The Maple Leafs will be without forward Brandon Kozun after the rookie suffered a lower-body injury in the second period. Fellow forward Daniel Winnik was knocked out of the game with an upper-body injury.