Slumping Maple Leafs, Red Wings battle in Toronto

( - The Detroit Red Wings' longest winless stretch in three months has prevented the club from separating itself in the wild card race.

The Toronto Maple Leafs' longest losing streak since 2010 has their playoff hopes in serious doubt.

The two clubs look to get on track Saturday night, when the Leafs try to snap a seven-game slide against a Red Wings team looking to win for the first time in four contests.

Detroit and Toronto are two of four teams tied for the two wild card spots in the Eastern Conference with 80 points. The Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals all have nine games remaining on the season, while the Maple Leafs have seven left to play.

That has Toronto on the outside of the playoff picture, while the Red Wings and Blue Jackets have the current tiebreaker over the Capitals with more non- shootout wins.

Washington is hosting the Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon, while Columbus is set to visit the Carolina Hurricanes in the evening.

The Maple Leafs seemed in prime position to make the playoffs for a second straight season just weeks ago, but have lost seven in a row in regulation. That is the longest losing streak for the club since an 0-6-2 slide from Oct. 28-Nov. 13, 2010.

Toronto doesn't have much time to regroup after dropping a 4-2 road decision to the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night. That setback did see winger James van Riemsdyk set a club record by scoring just four seconds into the second period, but it wasn't enough.

Dave Bolland also scored and Jonathan Bernier allowed four goals on 29 shots faced.

"I think our work ethic and all that stuff has been good. We haven't quit, we've played hard to the end," noted van Riemsdyk, who bested Mats Sundin's previous club record set when he scored six seconds into overtime on Dec. 30, 1995.

"Like I said, sometimes we just aren't getting those bounces and we're just going to have to find a way to just clean things up a little bit more where we're not making any mistakes because it seems like when we do we're not getting the bounces that we need."

That is especially true for Toronto's goaltenders. Bernier has allowed four goals in both games he has played since returning from a five-game absence caused by a groin injury, while James Reimer has yielded 18 goals over a personal five-game losing streak.

It is unknown who will start the back end of consecutive games on consecutive days. Bernier is 2-1-1 with a 2.85 goals against average versus the Red Wings, while Reimer has gone 0-2-0 with a 3.94 GAA when facing them.

Toronto opens a four-game homestand tonight and will then close the season with three straight on the road. The Leafs are 22-14-1 at home on the season.

The Red Wings are trying to avoid missing the postseason for the first time since 1990 and remain without a number of injured players, including Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. They come into this key meeting having gone 0-2-1 in their last three games, the longest winless stretch for the Red Wings since they went 0-4-2 from Dec. 7-17.

Detroit tried to rally on Thursday night against the visiting Montreal Canadiens, but came up short in a 5-4 decision. Tomas Tatar scored twice in a span of just over three minutes in the third period to tie the game, but the Habs went back on top 78 seconds later.

Montreal then restored a two-goal edge before Johan Franzen tallied to get the Red Wings within a goal, but another comeback was not in the cards.

"Catch-up hockey is losing hockey," Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said.

Riley Sheahan recorded a goal and an assist in the loss, but Jimmy Howard stopped just 24-of-29 shots.

Babcock said Howard is his likely starter for tonight as the Red Wings also are set to host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday. Howard is 1-1-1 in his career against Toronto with a 2.61 GAA.

The Red Wings have won two of three against the Maple Leafs this season, with the lone setback coming in a shootout on Jan. 1 outdoors at Michigan Stadium.

Detroit's 5-4 shootout victory on Dec. 21 snapped a four-game series road losing streak as the Red Wings won in Toronto for the first time since Nov. 16, 2002.