Time: 3:00 PM EST
Place: BB&T Center
TV: FS-D, FS-F
Radio: 97.1 FM The Ticket/1270 AM
Panthers Blog: Litter Box Cats
The Red Wings get their second series of the year going against the Florida Panthers today with a matinee game down in Sunrise. Wings fans will be thankful with this one ending well before Super Bowl kickoff.
The Red Wings will try to halt a long losing skid at 8 and grab their first win in almost 3 weeks. It won’t be easy against a Panthers team that is off to a very hot 6-0-2 start after having 4 games postponed already this season. That’s good enough to put them 2nd in the Central behind Tampa. What Detroit may have going for them here though is they played much better against Tampa on Friday and could have just as easily taken that game. Another factor is when these teams last played, Detroit held their own losing each both games by single goal margins, 3-2.
But close doesn’t count for anything and the bottom line is the Wings have to find a way to get a win. A powerplay that suddenly starts to look NHL calibre would be helpful. Now with some of their returning bodies like Robby Fabbri and Filip Zadina getting reacclimated, they might be able to find a combination on the man advantage that works.
Look for Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha to carry the load as usual, particularly with Tyler Bertuzzi’s absence. Mantha had his 3 game goal-scoring streak snapped on Friday night. As for Larkin, he was kept off the scoresheet entirely in the series against Tampa. The captain has an unidentified ailment he’s been fighting, with coach Blashill indicating as much. Getting some scoring support is going to be necessary. Zadina could be a big factor there as he has been noticeable for significant stretches when he’s been on the ice. Fabbri is another player that’s being counted on for secondary scoring after he showed what he was capable of last season. The other player looked to here is Bobby Ryan who has cooled after a hot start, not having scored in his last 8 games and grabbing only 2 assists in that timeframe. The Wings need him to get back on the scoresheet to help bust out of this skid. Givani Smith has showed well when given a chance, and even earned himself an opportunity on the top line alongside Larkin and Zadina last game. It will be interesting to see if he’s given that type of look again against the Panthers.
Defensively, Detroit was happy to get Jon Merrill back as his presence has become a welcome one on the backend. Danny DeKeyser was the odd man out in both Tampa games and we’ll see if that was a minor rest for him with him still trying to return to form after back surgery last season. If he’s scratched again today, it raises the flag that perhaps he’s not quite healthy which would be worrisome to say the least. If he does return it’s difficult to say who the odd man out would be. Fans will tell you it should be Marc Staal but he’s been in every game this year and the team hasn’t shown any inkling they will scratch him yet.
Between the pipes may well be Thomas Greiss with his 5th straight start. That is unless Jonathan Bernier returns who has been travelling with the team down in Florida. Keep an eye for the Gameday Updates posting to see if there’s any news on the goaltending situation.
Leading the Panthers are the usual suspects in Jonathan Huberdeau with 12 points, and Aleksander Barkov with 11 points. Not to be forgotten, Carter Verhaeghe leads the team in goals with 6, playing on Barkov’s wing. On the Panthers blueline Keith Yandle is getting things done offensively with 7 points, putting to bed any rumors of him being scratched to start the season, at least for now. The other standout there for Florida is Aaron Ekblad. The 25 year old, former 1st overall pick, is showing why he was worthy of that selection back in 2014 racking up 25:29 a night so far this season.
Sergei Bobrovsky is the the expected starter for Florida. He may be a target for the Red Wings as the highly paid netminder continues to struggle with an .881 SV% and 3.57 GAA so far this season. His only appearance to crack the .900 SV% mark was when he stopped 25 of 27 against the Wings back on January 30.
Detroit will have to find a way to expose the goalie like other teams have because Florida’s 3.50 GF per game right now is good for 7th in the league. Likewise, Detroit will need to avoid the box, as the Panthers powerplay is operating at 36% right now, 4th in the league.
The Wings are in a tough spot here, with a losing streak like this supposed to be what separated them from last year’s group. But nevertheless they are where they are, and deservedly so. The warm feelings the new season brought are gone now. They have to find a way to dig deep and get everyone delivering what they’re capable of. Even with improvement this isn’t a team that can have guys taking nights off.