Morning Skate: Red Wings vs Panthers - Preview, How to Watch

Time: 7:00 PM EST

Place: Little Caesars Arena

TV: FS-Detroit, FS-F

Radio: 97.1 FM The Ticket/1270 AM

Panthers Blog: Litter Box Cats

The Red Wings match up tonight is at home against the Florida Panthers. The Wings are coming off a strong performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins last night. Detroit eventually fell 2-1 in overtime to Pittsburgh on a powerplay marker by Sidney Crosby. But overall the came was one of their more complete efforts in awhile. In particular Jimmy Howard really bounced back from his struggles coming up with several big saves throughout while stopping 35 of 37 shots.

With back to back games you’ll need to keep an eye on the GDU post and late updates for the lineup but expect to see a very similar lineup tonight if not the exact same. After last night’s performance, Jeff Blashill likely won’t want to change much barring the unlikely return of any players from injury.

Dylan Larkin was banged up in the 3rd period last night after taking a hard tumble into the end boards but he returned to the game, although wincing at times, so expect to see him manning the top line again between Bertuzzi and Fabbri.

Zadina continued his strong play by not only scoring the Wings lone goal of the game, on the powerplay. He generated plenty of looks and his star continues to rise as a rare positive during this tough season for the team. He’s now scored 6 goals and 12 points in 23 games and would be on a full-season pace for 20+ goals and 40+ points. Not bad for a guy some folks were turning sour on not long ago. He’ll again be paired with likely Valtteri Filppula and  Luke Glendening, relied on to drive the line offensively.

Frans Nielsen centers the next line between Darren Helm and Adam Erne where the Wings scoring depth, or lack thereof, becomes very apparent. This group between them has one point in the last four games, that being Nielsen’s assist on Zadina’s powerplay goal last night. At this point it’s difficult to expect too much from this group but goose eggs nearly every night has to be a trend that’s broken for this team to get a win.

The de facto fourth line features Christoffer Ehn centering Justin Abdelkader and Givani Smith. Smith continues to show he may have what it takes to stay at the NHL level, albeit in a lower lineup roles such as this. His numbers aren’t anything to look at with 2 points (1G, 1A) in 12 games this season, but he’s a tough player who plays with good energy in limited minutes. He’s also at least something different to see in the lineup.

Brendan Perlini has had a extensive run now as the healthy scratch getting into only one game this month. If he can’t find his way into this depleted lineup on the second half of back to backs, the experiment to give his career a kick-start may already be over in Detroit. It’s way too early to say yet, but the cost to get him (Regula) was probably the most noteworthy piece given up in any of the deals for him, Erne, and Fabbri.

On the back end, the defense received a bit of a change with the demotion of Brian Lashoff to Grand Rapids and Trevor Daley returning to the lineup from injury. Daley was paired with Filip Hronek, and the other top pair saw Mike Green remain with Patrik Nemeth. Holding down the bottom pair was the duo of Madison Bowey and Alex Biega.

In net, Jimmy Howard’s performance last night was enough to earn consideration as the go man again. But with it being so rare to see goalies start back to backs anymore, especially at Howard’s age, the better bet is Calvin Pickard getting another start. Pickard will hope to have a similar bounce back performance to Howard while the Red Wings await the return of Jonathan Bernier.

The competition tonight, the Panthers, are a team trying to grab a hold of a wildcard spot or potentially the Leafs current 3rd place division spot. They sit one point back of either position with games in hand on all three teams their chasing. Florida is led by Dadonov with 20 goals, but they have several threats to score all approaching the 20 goal milestone. Hoffman has 18, Huberdeau 18, Connolly 16, Acciari 17, and Barkov 14. Both Barkov and Huberdeau have already surpassed the 50 point mark with Huberdeau leading the way with 62. Suffice to say the Panthers have plenty of options to put the puck in the back of the net. They aren’t slouches on the back end either with Yandle and Ekblad leading the charge. In goal the probable starter is big money Bobrovsky who after appearing to find his game in early December has slumped again over the last month. The man expected to be a cornerstone of this team over the next several years currently looks their biggest weakness.

The Wings are hoping to come out with another strong showing tonight, building off of the effort last night. But will they have enough gas in the tank to do it again, and can they force Bobrovsky into another performance he’d rather forget?