Geared-up Leafs kick off second half at Red Wings
The Toronto Maple Leafs haven't played since Jan. 23, but their front office has been busy fortifying the team for the stretch run.
Leafs GM Kyle Dubas struck a deal with the Los Angeles Kings on Monday, acquiring defenseman Jake Muzzin. Toronto gave up a young wing, Carl Grundstrom, along with the rights to unsigned draft pick Sean Durzi, and its first-round draft pick in this year's entry draft.
Muzzin is expected to make his Leafs debut in Detroit on Friday.
"I was a little shocked to get the phone call," Muzzin said during a NHL TV interview. "Obviously, growing up in Ontario, everyone was a Leafs fan and I was included. ... It's kind of funny how life works and here we are, coming back home to play for the team I rooted for growing up. It's kind of ironic."
The 29-year-old Muzzin has four goals and 21 points this season. He has 213 career points in 496 games, and his experience appealed to a team striving to make a playoff splash.
"The key thing for us in acquiring a player like Jake, is he's been a very good player in the NHL for a long time, and when he joined Los Angeles coming out of junior, they were kind of at the same stage as we are now," Dubas said. "He had that experience of seeing a team mature from wanting to contend to contending, and then ultimately winning. And he was a big part of (the Kings') championship team in 2014.
"So he had that experience, but beyond all that, the key was his ability to play at the top end of our defense, play in all situations, play against the other team's top players."
Toronto won its last outing, 6-3, against Washington. Prior to that, the Leafs (30-17-2, 62 points) had won just three of 10 games.
Mitch Marner and John Tavares carried the scoring load prior to the break. Marner collected 62 points, including 42 assists, while Tavares reached the 30-goal mark. Defenseman Morgan Rielly contributed 50 points, including 37 assists.
The first three meetings between the clubs this season were very competitive. The Leafs won in Detroit on Oct. 11, 5-3, with Tavares notching four assists. Both games in Toronto went to overtime. The Wings won the first one on Dec. 6, 5-4, on a Dylan Larkin goal. The Leafs won by the same score on a Kasperi Kapanen goal 17 nights later.
The rebuilding Red Wings (19-25-7, 45 points) also won their last game before the break, edging Edmonton on the road, 3-2. Larkin scored his team-high 21st goal.
"(Larkin's) been outstanding. Every night he's our best player," center Luke Glendening said. "We couldn't ask for any more from him. He's vocal in the room when he needs to be, but just the way he carries himself and the way he's been playing has been outstanding."
Glendening had his most productive night of the season against the Oilers, scoring twice.
"Luke is an excellent, really excellent useful player in the sense that he can do so many different things," coach Jeff Blashill said. "He wins faceoffs, had some huge blocks, the one goal is a result of his block. You're using him in a lot of different situations. He's a really good athlete, he's an ability to score, so good for him to score."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 31, 2019