DETROIT RED WINGS: 17-13-9 (43 PTS.) vs. FLORIDA PANTHERS: 14-19-5 (33 PTS.)
GAMEDAY SONG: Let’s Tessellate, Alt-J
The Florida Panthers hope to get back on track after the Christmas break having not played since their 6-1 pasting at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night. The Panthers who had a successful Canadian road trip with a 3-1-0 record, have now lost two in a row including a 5-2 loss in Winnipeg before the home loss to Tampa. In Monday’s game the Panthers looked listless, and at times out of sorts in their first game back from the Canadian road swing. Being outscored 11-3 in their past two games gives the indication that there’s still work to be done before this team can turn the corner.
It’s also not heling that the Panthers have lost defenceman Erik Gudbranson and forward Scottie Upshall to injuries. Gudbranson underwent orbital bone suregery and could be out of action for 2-4 weeks depending on how quicklty he heals. Making it worse is that Gudbranson was playing some of the best hockey of his young career since being paried with newly acquired Dylan Olsen. Upshall left Monday’s game against Tampa after only seeing five minutes of ice time. That’s the bad news.
The good news for the Panthers is that they have beaten the Red Wings twice this season, and have a chance to go 4-0 when the HBO 24/7 cameras are rolling. Call it rising to the occassion, or raising the bar for prime time, the Panthers need another solid performance tonight to prevent the streak of losses from hitting three. Prior to the recent two game skid the Panthers scored 15 goals during a five game winning streak, and had won seven of eight. The Panthers are 7-3-0 in their past 10 games and had been playing some of their best hockey of the season under interim coach Peter Horachek.
With the injuries to both Gudbranson and Upshall, the Panthers have recalled defenceman Alex Petrovic and forward Drew Shore to take their place on the roster. Both players will be looking to make an impression, and make a contribution any way that they can in an effort to get them noticed. In 28 games for the San Antonio Rampage, Shore has 15 points, all assists. Petrovic has 11 points in 31 games and 46 penatly minutes. With Gudbranson out of the lineup, “Petro” will need to play physically, yet will need to be smart about it.
The Red Wings have been battling some inconsistency of their own this season winning two in a row prior to a six game losing streak, with a 3-0 shutout against the New York Islanders on Monday. Like the Panthers, the Red Wings have also had some trouble scoring this season, however their roster has been decimated with injuries. Not to use injuries as an excuse, and you know that this writer would never make excuses for the Red Wings, but Detroit can point to those injuries for an explanation of their play. When you have players like Johan Franzen, Henrik Zetterberg, Darrin Helm, Jimmy Howard, Justin Abdelkater, and oh yea, Stephen Weiss out of action, wins will be tough to come by. Adding to that injury list will be the loss of defenceman Jonathan Ericsson who’ll miss 3-5 weeks with broken ribs.
Zetterberg is expected back in the lineup tonight for Detroit, and despite missing 11 games with a herniated disc in his back, he still leads the team in points with 30 and in a plus 12 in 28 games. And Pavel Datysuk is second in team scoring with 29 points followed by former Ottawa Senator Daniel Alfredsson with 28.
Detroit who has been off just as long as the Panthers (since Monday) won’t make this an easy task for Florida, and will likely come out a touch angry as they look to avoid two consecutive losses to two of the teams that are bringing up the rear of the NHL. The Panthers will need to keep the puck away from Detroit as much as they can, and put a lot of shots on net against Jonas Gustavsson who’ll likely start tonight in goal.
The Panthers will need a quick start tonight, and will need to beat Detroit at their own game by holding on to the puck longer. The defence will need to be sharp, and will need to clear rebounds, and players out of the crease to make their goaltenders job easier.
* The Red Wings have an 11-3-3 record on the road, good enough for first in the NHL.
* Aleksander Barkov has four points in his last four games.
* Marcel Goc needs one assist to reach 100 in his career.
* The Panthers will play five straight at home. Tampa was on Monday, Detroit tonight, Montreal Sunday night, NY Rangers, and Nashville.
* The Red Wings have lost 145 man games to injury this season.
* Daniel Alfredsson has 58 points in 60 career games against the Panthers.
* Detroit had lost 6 consecutive shootouts this season, and 11 in a row dating back to last year before beating Toronto last Satruday night.
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