Winter Classic 2014: Viewing Info and Preview for Maple Leafs vs. Red Wings

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Winter Classic 2014: Viewing Info and Preview for Maple Leafs vs. Red Wings
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

The Toronto Maple Leafs are used to playing in front of a rabid fanbase, but going up against the Detroit Red Wings at the Big House on New Year's Day should be a unique experience that even the diehard Canadian fans can't match.

Hopefully the NHL's decision to oversaturate the schedule with outdoor games, which lessens the overall attraction of each one individually, doesn't cause casual fans to tune out. It's an Original Six battle that should live up to the Winter Classic moniker.

Knowing that, let's check out all the important viewing information for the sixth edition of the Winter Classic, followed by a preview and prediction for the holiday clash.

 

 

Viewing Info

Where: Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich.

When: Wednesday, Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. ET

Watch: NBC

Stream: NBC Sports Live Extra

 

Preview

Even though the New Year's Day encounter counts the same as the other 81 regular-season contests the Leafs and Wings will play, the surrounding atmosphere obviously makes it take on a life of its own.

That said, there's also a good chance the game has a lasting impact. Detroit and Toronto moved into the same division as a part of the league's realignment and are currently tied with 45 points, which would be good enough for the wild cards as it stands now.

Leafs center Nazem Kadri spoke about the competition between the two organizations as a motivating factor in this game, per The Canadian Press via NHL.com: "Obviously Detroit being so close to us (in the standings) it definitely makes things a little more competitive."

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When the dust eventually settles at season's end, it wouldn't be a shock to see the teams separated by a couple points and people will look back on the Winter Classic as the difference maker. That's especially true if it ends up costing one of the teams a postseason berth.

Neither team has been playing great hockey as of late. The Red Wings are 3-5-2 over their past 10 games while the Leafs are only slightly better at 4-4-2.

Surprisingly, one of Detroit's biggest problems has been poor play at home. Counting overtime and shootout losses, the Wings are 6-16 on home ice, so maybe the temporary shift from Joe Louis Arena to Michigan Stadium will serve as a breath of fresh air, both literally and figuratively.

Dave Reginek/Getty Images

The other issue has been a lack of offensive contributions from players outside the big names. Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Daniel Alfredsson have lived up to their usual high standards, but secondary scorers like Justin Abdelkader and Joakim Andersson must elevate their level of play.

As for Toronto, the good news is that it appears the longstanding goaltending issues are being set aside for at least one season. Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer have both played well when called up behind a defensive group that's run hot and cold all season.

Graig Abel/Getty Images

Like their Winter Classic counterparts, however, the Leafs are waiting to see which players are going to rise to the occasion to help bolster the offense. Phil Kessel has performed as well as expected, James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak has shined when healthy, but the production has been average beyond that.

So the matchup features Original Six rivals with identical point totals and similar questions to answer in front of what should be a raucous crowd. That's exactly what the Winter Classic was made for before the outdoor concept starting getting a little out of control.

Prediction: Red Wings 3, Maple Leafs 2

 

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