Determined Red Wings will hold no surprises for Maple Leafs, says Keefe

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Upon further video review, the Detroit Red Wings are playing at a highly competitive level and will be a handful for the Maple Leafs on Saturday night.

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That was a theme in the message Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe was relaying to his players at team meetings Saturday morning, hours before the Leafs take on Detroit to begin a home stay for five games at the Scotiabank Arena.

And Keefe had a recent movie for proof. At the end of the third period of the Wings game against the Florida Panthers in Detroit on Friday, the Wings threw their bodies in front of at least five shots to block in a pressure-filled sequence that lasted nearly a minute.

The desire to sacrifice kept the score at 2-1 for Florida, and the Wings managed to tie the game before losing 3-2 in overtime. Their 4-2-2 overall record, which places them third in the Atlantic Division, brings the respect of their Original Six rivals in Toronto.

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“It’s not going to surprise us,” Keefe said. “They are outstanding for the results they have had. They’re in every game, they’ve been playing a lot of games, they’re getting their chances to score. It is a committed group that is playing hard and wants to have a great season and wants to push to win and compete in games.

“We saw the sequence they had last night. It’s a really quick snapshot of the kind of mindset Detroit has in terms of how he’s playing very urgently and competing at a high level early in the season. They are not going to make it easy for us, for sure ”.

Leaves? Well, we know where they are sitting. It’s not pretty, as an overtime win in Chicago on Wednesday against the Blackhawks brought Toronto’s record to 3-4-1. Only eight games, of course, but it is a brand well below expectations, both inside and outside the organization.

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Defense fighter Justin Holl will sit down, but it’s the defense of the team as a whole that has been bothering Keefe.

“We’ve had too many guys behind us,” Keefe said. “This team is going to challenge us in that area.

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“Our forwards have to help the cause. That’s an important piece when we look at many of the improvements we made over the past season on defense. Our D played a big role in that, but our forwards contributed enormously. Any team that defends well does so in a group of five.

“We have some defenders who have not played at the level that we would like them to be or that we expect. But at the same time, they don’t have the same level of support. We have to be much more connected as a defensive team. “

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Defender Jake Muzzin’s play has been unusually ineffective, and the veteran was one of the few Leafs to participate in optional skating on Saturday.

“For a guy who’s been this good for so long, you have the confidence that he will find it,” Keefe said. “We are talking about him, reassuring him, pushing him, challenging him. He doesn’t need much of that because he’s a very self-conscious guy and he takes a lot of pride in his game and the role he plays for us. “

Timothy Liljegren draws on the blue line and will play with Rasmus Sandin. The other new couples will feature Morgan Rielly with Travis Dermott and Muzzin with TJ Brodie.

“I have not given Hollsy any guarantees in terms of whether or not he will return,” Keefe said. “We’re just going to watch them play. If this turns into healthy competition on our back end, it will be good for everyone. “

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One defender who has been relatively solid is Sandin, who had an extra spring in his pass Saturday morning. His father, Patric, arrived from Sweden on Friday and will be in Toronto for the next five games.

“It’s great to have some family members here and to be able to come to Toronto again,” Sandin said.

Petr Mrazek will start in goal for the Leafs, his first game since sustaining a groin injury on Oct. 14 in Ottawa.

Thomas Greiss, who has a 3-1-0 record and a .917 save percentage in four games, is expected to be in the net for the Wings.

In eight career games against the Leafs, Greiss is 4-3-1 with a .909 save percentage.

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