Maple Leafs wary of last-place Red Wings

TORONTO -- The Detroit Red Wings are in danger missing the playoffs for the first time in 25 years.

The Toronto Maple Leafs, however, will not be taking the Red Wings lightly when the teams meet Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre.

The Maple Leafs (28-22-14) also are struggling, as they are returning from a three-game West Coast trip on which they registered only one point. They also sit outside of a playoff spot with 18 games to play in the regular season, though they are nine points ahead of the Red Wings (25-27-11).

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"They've had a tough run there, a lot of things going on," said Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock, who coached the Red Wings for 10 years and won a Stanley Cup championship. "But any time you've been in the playoffs 25 straight years ... I guarantee you their players are coming here with the idea of crawling back in (the playoff race). They'll be proud and play right, so we're going to have to play really well."

The Maple Leafs have won both meetings with the Red Wings this season with one more game after Tuesday, April 1 at Joe Louis Arena.

The Red Wings called up defenseman Robbie Russo for the game Tuesday. He will make his NHL debut because Ryan Sproul is out indefinitely after spraining his left knee in Detroit's 4-3 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.

Russo, 24, has seven goals and 24 assists in 56 games this season with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League. Selected 95th overall by the New York Islanders in the 2011 draft, Russo was signed by Detroit as a free agent in 2015.

"He's a real smart, puck-moving-type player," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "He's been a real big plus-minus guy down in (Grand Rapids). He's one of those guys until he gets an opportunity in the NHL, you are not sure. It was felt within the organization he was deserving of a shot."

The line of Darren Helm flanked by Dylan Larkin and Justin Abdelkader was effective during Detroit's three-game Western Canada swing. Helm and Larkin each scored Saturday in Edmonton. Helm also scored Friday in Calgary, and Abdelkader scored the winning goal in overtime Tuesday in Vancouver.

"I liked that line, they're doing a good job," Blashill said.

Larkin said, "We're working hard and we're hunting pucks in the offensive zone. You play with a guy like (Helm), he's real fast, quick and he's going to be there first on the forecheck, the same with Justin. All three of us like to be in there on the forecheck, and we're all reading off each other now and going to the spots where we're anticipating the pucks are going."

The Maple Leafs, who have not played since a 5-2 road loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Friday, have 10 home games remaining.

"We are set up in a perfect spot," Babcock said. "If we had have known this at the start of the year, we would have been pumped. I don't think we've played terribly. Last game, we gave up three goals that were defensive mistakes for no reason. So, we have to tune 'er up and get on a push again. We have most hands on deck, so we'll have an opportunity that way."

Only defenseman Connor Carrick is injured for Toronto.

Frederik Andersen likely will start in goal for Toronto, with Petr Mrazek the probable goaltender for Detroit.

Gustav Nyquist, who returned to the Detroit lineup Saturday after serving a six-game suspension for a high-sticking violation, missed practice Monday due to a stomach bug. If he cannot play Tuesday, Mitch Callahan likely would replace him.