Outdoor matchup kicks off 2017 schedule
Mike Babcock’s Maple Leafs ended 2016 on an overwhelmingly positive note. But can they carry that momentum into a New Year’s Day clash against the Red Wings?
The Original Six rivals venture outdoors for the Centennial Classic at 3 p.m. ET. Online sports book Bovada.lv gives host Toronto odds of -155 to emerge victorious. Detroit, on the other hand, hits BMO Field as a +125 underdog.
Riding a four-game winning streak, the Leafs (16-12-7) are beginning to generate some noise in the Atlantic Division. Rookie sensation Auston Matthews, he of the 18 goals and 12 assists, keeps garnering the lion’s share of attention on the offensive side. Yet two other skaters, James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri, also boast 13 markers apiece. No. 1 option Frederik Andersen is expected to return to the crease, too, after Antoine Bibeau snared his first NHL victory several nights ago.
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill seems likely to tab Jared Coreau as this afternoon’s starter between the pipes. Recalled from the minors before Christmas, the 25-year-old impressed in recent assignments vs. Florida and Ottawa. Peter Mrazek, meanwhile, has allowed at least three goals in six straight appearances.
Despite Detroit’s (16-16-4) continued dominance in the series, we refuse to ignore Toronto’s stellar play of late. Neither team, though, should have to worry about difficult conditions at the rink. The forecast shows sunshine and mid-30s temperatures.
SUNDAY NHL FREE PICK: MAPLE LEAFS -1.5