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Doggone it, Marner impacting every shift as Maple Leafs seek another road victory

Montreal Canadiens center Christian Dvorak chases Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitch Marner along the boards during the first period at Bell Centre.
Montreal Canadiens center Christian Dvorak chases Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Mitch Marner along the boards during the first period at Bell Centre. Photo by David Kirouac /USA TODAY Sports

DETROIT — Mitch Marner is going to the dogs.

In this case, it’s a good thing. 

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The Maple Leafs winger, on a 16-game point streak heading into the finale of a four-game trip on Monday night against the Detroit Red Wings, never has his beloved chocolate Lab Zeus far from his mind.

That includes during games, as Marner has taken to writing a capital Z on his glove and stick.

“I don’t have any kids and people are probably going to think I’m crazy, but yeah, that’s my guy,” Marner said after the morning skate at Little Caesars Arena. “He doesn’t have a damn clue what I do for a living, doesn’t have a damn clue what anyone thinks about me. He just loves me for being his dad and buzzing around outdoors with him. That’s why I put him on there for the little remembrance, to have fun. 

“I go out there and buzz around and try to be a difference-maker and help this team win games … Try to do what he does when he’s out there in the field, buzz around and chase down the ball and be a big force.”

Hey, whatever works. And it’s working for Marner, who is two games from tying the Leafs franchise record for most consecutive games with a point. Darryl Sittler hit 18 games in 1977-78 and Ed Olczyk tied the mark in 1989-90.

“You get in a rhythm when you’re an elite player like that and you just feel like every shift you’re going to make a difference,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “He’s feeling it. He’s feeling it with the puck, without the puck, with his defending. 

“Some of his best plays are coming off his reads and creating turnovers to create high-end chances for us. It seems like no matter the minutes or the situation or the schedule, he’s just continuing to push on.”

Marner has been a major factor as the Leafs have come around to playing a strong team game, despite significant injuries on the blue line. A victory on Monday would give Toronto its first four-game winning streak of the season, and would give the Leafs a sweep of this four-game trip following victories in New Jersey, Minnesota and Pittsburgh.

In the wider view, the Leafs have won nine of their past 13.

“We’re making sure that we’re putting the puck into good spots and we’re not making life harder on ourselves than it needs to be,” Keefe said. “With us being shorthanded as we are on defence (with Morgan Rielly, TJ Brodie, Jake Muzzin and Jordie Benn out), we’ve got to have a really sound team game. Forwards really have to be responsible with how they play, both with the puck and without, to be able to support the defence defensively, and then also to help us on our breakouts. We need to be connected. 

“We really have that happening right now and our confidence has grown to a good place. All that said, the trip is not over. We have to focus on tonight’s game and be able to do it again.”

Matt Murray will be back in the Leafs net after getting Saturday off on Pittsburgh. For the Wings, Ville Husso is expected to start in goal.

Detroit has won four in a row and is 7-2-2 on home ice. The Wings are making noise in the Atlantic Division, having moved up to third place through games on Sunday, five points behind the second-place Leafs.

“(The Leafs) have a lot of skill and a really deep lineup, but I think we just have to worry about us and we’ll be just fine,” Wings defenceman Moritz Seider said. “We’ve been playing a lot of good hockey lately.

“It’s remarkable (what Marner has been doing). But we don’t need to worry about any guys on the other team. We can match any of their skill. I’m pretty confident about that. It will be a cool matchup tonight.

“If you look at the standings, we don’t have to hide anywhere. We have been taking a lot of good strides forward.”

The projected lineups for Monday night:

TORONTO

FORWARDS

LW-C-RW

Michael Bunting-Auston Matthews-William Nylander

Calle Jarnkrok-John Tavares-Mitch Marner

Alex Kerfoot-Pontus Holmberg-Pierre Engvall

Zach Aston-Reese-David Kampf-Denis Malgin

DEFENCE

Mark Giordano-Justin Holl

Rasmus Sandin-Timothy Liljegren

Victor Mete-Mac Hollowell

GOAL

Matt Murray

Erik Kallgren

DETROIT

FORWARDS

LW-C-RW

Dominik Kubalik-Dylan Larkin-David Perron

Tyler Bertuzzi-Andrew Copp-Lucas Raymond

Adam Erne-Michael Rasmussen-Oskar Sundqvist

Jonatan Berggren-Joe Veleno-Pius Suter

DEFENCE

Ben Chiarot-Moritz Seider

Olli Maatta-Filip Hronek

Jake Walman-Jorden Oesterle

GOAL

Ville Husso

Alex Nedeljkovic

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