The Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings will despise each for about 21/2 hours on Saturday night.
But this much they agree on: They would like to play each other more than once a season.
“What’s interesting, for me, is we never see them,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I’m a big believer that the Original Six teams should play each other all the time.”
Yet because the NHL insists on keeping the Red Wings in the Western Conference, under the present schedule, they meet the Leafs just once a season. At the least, the teams should have a home-and-home with each other.
“Any time the Original Six teams meet, you love to see those games,” Leafs defenceman Mike Komisarek said. “It would be a lot tougher on us to play these guys more, it would just be nice to see them (more).”
Leafs coach Ron Wilson, his team in a tight playoff battle, had little time giving the idea much thought.
“It’s just nice to play Detroit again in a meaningful game,” Wilson said. “That is all we are focused on right now.”
ALL FOR AULIE
Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf has picked up his game measurably in the past couple of months, but he has not done it by himself.
“I think it’s because he is playing with Keith Aulie,” Wilson said. “Keith has had a huge impact. Dion is confident jumping into the play and Keith backs him up. Keith does not get too much credit, but what we are seeing now is his physical presence out there.”
Aulie, of course, was part of the trade that brought Phaneuf to Toronto from Calgary last year. It’s clear he could become a major steal for the Leafs.
“It has grown in the sense that the more you play with each other, the more comfortable you are,” Phaneuf said. “He has been solid playing against the other team’s top lines. It is not easy.”
Toronto defenceman Brett Lebda, who spent the previous five seasons with the Wings and won a Cup in 2008, knows what the absences of Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) and Johan Franzen (groin) can do for the Leafs.
“Datsyuk is one of the best players in the league and Franzen is just a force,” Lebda said. “We have to take advantage of that.”
Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi (back) might play against the Leafs, Babcock said.
NOT A SHOT
Babcock said something that might have been interpreted as a shot at Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, but that did not appear to be his intent.
More that it was Babcock speaking the truth.
“I have been with him twice (world championship and Olympics) and he has been great,” Babcock said. “In saying that, until you have won the Cup, you have not won the Cup.
“He can do all he wants right now, they’re going to win the Presidents’ Trophy, but then there is Game 1 (of the playoffs), when you are the favourite. It’s different, and we will see how he handles that.”