Rarity makes visit 'special'

MIKE ZEISBERGER, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 3:12 PM ET

No, Stevie Y was not a rookie when the Maple Leafs most recently paid a regular-season visit to Joe Louis Arena.

It only seems that way thanks to the NHL's perplexing conference-heavy schedule, one that curiously sees one-time Original Six rivals Toronto and Detroit rarely face off against each other despite their home rinks being separated by just a four-hour drive.

After tonight, if the league's scheduling format remains intact, the Leafs and Red Wings will not meet each other in a regular-season encounter in Motown until the 2009-10 campaign.

While the board of governors this week opted not to change the sked as of yet, Maple Leafs general manager John Ferguson has not given up his efforts to have the Leafs and Wings play more frequently. And neither, it seems, has Detroit GM Ken Holland.

"We are a Western Conference team located in the eastern time zone," Holland said during a phone interview from Detroit. "We would definitely like to see more games against Toronto and other Original Six teams like Montreal, Boston and New York.

"There is an extra buzz here about (tonight's) game. It's against the Leafs. It's Hockey Night in Canada. It's Saturday night. It's special."

Holland believes the door remains open for change.

"I was at the governors meetings and the way I interpreted it, there were just too many alternatives being thrown around to come to an agreement. I believe it will be talked about again at our meetings next month."

Having retired during the off-season, the aforementioned Steve Yzerman remembers many of his battles versus Toronto over the years. The memory that gives him the most grief was the first-round playoff series in 1993, in which Nik Borschevsky's overtime winner in Game 7 capped off Toronto's first-round upset of the Wings.

"That was the biggest disappointment of my career," Yzerman, who now works in the Wings front office, said in a phone interview yesterday. "We had a very good team and thought we might go pretty far."


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