Leafs using tough Wings as motivation

TERRY KOSHAN, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 3:18 PM ET

DETROIT -- They filed out of the dressing room one by one and some in pairs yesterday, looking dour and appearing as though they were headed to a funeral.

With the difference, of course, that at funerals, fun times often are recounted. That's not what is happening with the Maple Leafs, who had a mid-afternoon practice yesterday at Joe Louis Arena that was sandwiched between a couple of lengthy team meetings.

So it went for a team that has lost six in a row and is two losses shy of its worst streak last season, when it lost eight in row from Jan. 10-28.

What's more, tonight they get the Detroit Red Wings, who are a middling 4-3-3 in their past 10 games, but have lost just twice in regulation at home this season.

"No one is going to believe in us (tonight), so it will be a good chance to prove we can be better than we have been," captain Mats Sundin said. "Even when you play a good team like Detroit, there should be as good a chance as any to break out of it."

The Leafs don't need any more mental hurdles, but they will have another presented to them in Wings goalie Dominik Hasek. With a 1.88 goals-against average, the 41-year-old was the only starting goalie in the NHL who was below 2.00 in that category before last night's games.

And Hasek has won his past eight games against Toronto.

But Leafs coach Paul Maurice does not mind a strong challenge, even now.

Maurice said after dismissing the players at approximately 4:15 p.m. that "it was not a give-and-take day" -- meaning he did most of the talking in the meetings.

"(The Wings) will give us all we can handle and we will have to be very good to be even with them," Maurice said. "That's the kind of thing we need to sink our teeth in and gain some confidence. We are not going to be looking at an abundance of offensive chances. We are not going to get what we get some other nights."

Andrew Raycroft, who beat the Wings in his only two games against them while he was with the Boston Bruins, will return to the crease tonight after watching Jean-Sebastien Aubin lose 3-1 to the Bruins in Boston on Thursday night.

Otherwise, Maurice does not plan to make any lineup changes, though he would not mind getting in his players' heads more effectively.

"Guys are being told what they need to do, and it is not rocket science," Jeff O'Neill said.

"In a streak like this, a lot of it is mental. We seem to get the mindset that 'uh oh, something bad could happen.' We have to get it going and get out of this."


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