DETROIT — The Detroit Red Wings are hurting. So are the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In the Red Wings’ case, the pain emanates more from emotional distress. For the Maple Leafs, it’s entirely physical.
As Toronto comes to Little Caesars Arena for a game against the Wings on Friday, Detroit will be completing a five-game homestand that could be defining the future for the team — and it isn’t painting a pretty picture.
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A 3-2 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, in which the Red Wings (11-13-7) blew a pair of third-period leads, marked the second straight game in which Detroit carried a 1-0 lead into the final session of regulation and did not come away with the two points. On Monday, they dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to the Florida Panthers.
These two setbacks dropped the Red Wings to 0-6 in overtime this season. Overall, Detroit is 1-5-5 in the last 11 games.
“You have to find a way to win,” Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. “We’re finding ways to lose.”
The Red Wings, who weren’t very dominant at home last season in their farewell campaign at Joe Louis Arena, going 17-17-7, have carried that mediocrity across town with them to their new rink. They are 5-6-6 on home ice, 1-1-2 on this homestand. The Wings are 1-4-4 in their last nine home games.
The inability to find success at home is causing Detroit to slowly but steadily slip out of the playoff race for the second successive season. The Red Wings sit five points behind the Boston Bruins for the third and final Atlantic Division playoff position, and the Bruins hold two games in hand.
“You know it’s getting hard,” Detroit left winger Tomas Tatar said. “We know it’s going to be tough to chase these points back. But, you know, we are here and we can’t give up. We just have to find a way to get these points back.”
In Toronto’s case, the pain is caused by the absence of some key components through injury, including their best player. Center Auston Matthews, who leads the team with 26 points, has missed three games due to an upper-body injury thought to be a concussion.
Defensemen Nikita Soshnikov (lower-body injury) was placed on injured reserve and, like Matthews, is listed as day-to-day. Forward Kasperi Kapanen was recalled from the AHL’s Toronto Marlies.
“What ‘day-to-day’ means I don’t know for sure,” Leafs coach Mike Babcock told the Toronto Sun.
The Leafs (20-12-1) were 5-0 without Matthews, the first player chosen in the 2016 NHL draft, but now they’ve lost two in a row without their star and have scored just two goals in the process. Still, sitting second in the Atlantic Division, Toronto thinks there’s no need to rush him back into action.
“In the situation we are, you buy a little time,” Babcock said. “The other thing is: No matter who is away, you have to find a way to win games.