NHL

Maple Leafs try to keep playoff hopes alive versus Red Wings

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The Sports Network
3/26/2011 10:54:44 AM
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(Sports Network) - The Maple Leafs have put together wins in five of their last seven games, but it might not be enough to make the playoffs.

The Red Wings have struggled in the month of March, but a 20th straight playoff appearance is nearly assured anyway.

Toronto hopes to keep its postseason chances alive with a fourth straight victory, while Detroit tries to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat tonight at Joe Louis Arena.

The Maple Leafs picked up a third straight win on Thursday, a 4-3 triumph at Colorado, but is still five points back of the eighth-place Sabres with seven games to play. Buffalo has eight games remaining, including a meeting at Toronto on Tuesday.

Nikolai Kulemin scored a pair of first-period goals in Thursday's win, while Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel also tallied for Toronto, which hasn't won four straight since Jan. 6-11.

James Reimer made 25 saves in his fourth straight winning start. He also improved to 12-3-1 with a 2.51 goals-against average on the road this season.

"I thought generally we played pretty well," said Toronto head coach Ron Wilson. "The type of team we are, we are going to have some breakdowns every once in a while, and [Reimer] made some big saves. He seemed to be struggling a little bit with rebound control, but he made a lot of big saves towards the end."

Reimer is likely to get the call tonight, the rookie's first versus Detroit.

Despite an 0-2-1 mark in their last three games and a 4-4-3 record in March, the Red Wings lead the Central Division by five points over the Predators and are tied with the Sharks for second overall in the West with 95 points. Closing in on a playoff spot, the Red Wings are hoping to get healthy for the postseason.

Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi all did not play in Wednesday's 2-1 loss to Vancouver, and both Datsyuk (lower body) and Franzen (groin) aren't expected to play tonight. Bertuzzi is questionable with a back ailment, but Jonathan Ericsson is out with the flu.

"The only chance is for [Bertuzzi], the other guys won't be until next week," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told Detroit's website on Friday.

Without those players, Jiri Hudler had the lone goal against the Canucks and Jimmy Howard made 31 saves.

Detroit is 0-1-1 on a five-game homestand.

Howard has never faced the Maple Leafs before and should get the chance to help his team end a three-game series losing streak to Toronto, which recorded a 5-1 home win in the lone meeting a season ago.

The Maple Leafs snapped a two-game slide in Motown on Oct. 9, 2008.

Bozak celebrates his goal with Lupul and Kessel (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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