FLORIDA PANTHERS: 8-16-5 (21 PTS.) vs. DETROIT RED WINGS: 15-8-7 (37 PTS.)
GAMEDAY SONG: Detroit Medley. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
The Florida Panthers closed out their five game homestand with an offensive outburst by defeating the Winnipeg Jets 5-2 on Thursday night. Five different players scored and Tim Thomas made 29 saves in what was his 13th start in a row, and I’ll bet he’ll be between the pipes again tonight. The victory snapped a three game losing streak for Florida, and saw newly acquired defenceman Dylan Olsen score his first NHL goal, as well as add an assist for a two point night.
Hopefully the Panthers are able to build on that victory as their next three games are against Detroit, with the Chicago Blackhawks sandwiched in between. It will also mark the first time that former long time Panthers Stephen Weiss will face his former team. Weiss was allowed to explore free agency after 10 years with the Panthers and signed a four year deal with the Red Wings. Weiss’s season has been a disappointment so far as he’s scored twice and has two assists giving him four points in 23 games. As usual Weiss missed time this season with a groin injury, something that seems to happen every year. If you’ve watched some Red Wings games this season, you’ll see some of the same play that infuriated this writer for so many seasons.
Panther killer Daniel Alfredsson is now a Red Wing, and will be someone the Panthers will need to contain, as he”s still a very dangerous player. Despite the fact that both Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datysuk are out with injuries, good teams like Detroit still find ways to win. Datysuk is slated to return when these two teams faceoff Tuesday in Sunrise. It also helps to have Mike Babcock behind the bench. Babcock is one of the very best coach’s in the NHL, and always manages to get the most out of his players. He manages his players well, has them prepared, and they love to play for him.
Some of Detroit’s players are quite pestilulent, and that includes Daniel Cleary. A hard nosed player that is a prototypical third liner, Cleary is known for his hustle, agitation, and for scoring a timely goal when least expected. Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson who is undefeated so far this season could be in goal for the Wings, provides a decent one-two punch with Jimmy Howard who appears to be struggling after a very solid season in 2012-2013.
Florida will need an exceptional effort from everyone, and will need to avoid mistakes. Detroit likes to hold onto the puck and will test Florida’s patience by doing so. The Panthers will have to play very smart hockey, and hope that they can catch the Wings off guard since they played last night in New Jersey. No games in the NHL are easy, and this one along with the next two are perfect examples of that.
Growing up as a Chicagoan, and having seen the Red Wings more than I care to admit, it’s no secret that they aren’t on my Christmas card list. My disdain for them is right up their with Vancouver, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. However, as an organEYEzation, I respect what they’ve done, and how they operate their franchise.
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