WGD: GAME 51, RED WINGS @ PANTHERS

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The Red Wings continue their Florida trip tonight in Sunrise, Florida. Their post-All-Star break schedule did not get off to the start that we hoped, but they get a chance to bounce back right away. We talked about how this back-to-back was huge because they’re playing two teams they’re battling with for a playoff spot, so tonight’s game is as big as it gets for a February contest. 

The Panthers come in on a tear, having won four in a row while averaging 4.75 goals per game over that stretch. Detroit on the other hand, has lost four of their last six and have averaged just 2.17 goals per contest, so the Red Wings certainly have their work cut out for them tonight. 

Tonight is the second of four meetings this season. The Panthers took the first one, 2-1 in overtime, but it’s time to break it down! 

THE RED WINGS

Detroit Red Wings lines courtesy of Daily Faceoff

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The Red Wings will get Riley Sheahan back in the lineup after he missed Wednesday’s game with an illness. With Sheahan back in the lineup, Teemu Pulkkinen will serve as a healthy scratch and Luke Glendening will go back to fourth line work. The blueline will look exactly the same as it did last night with Jakub Kindl watching as the seventh defenseman. Head coach Jeff Blashill said that Brendan Smith will also see some time on the power-play tonight, likely in place of Danny DeKeyser on the second unit. 

THE PANTHERS

Florida Panthers courtesy of Daily Faceoff

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The Panthers top line has been intact nearly all season and they’ve been one of the best in the NHL this season. After the All-Star break they didn’t waste any time getting back into form—Jonathan Huberdeau had three points (2G / 1A), Aleksander Barkov had two (1G / 1A) but Jaromir Jagr played a season-low 10:32 TOI as the Panthers cut him some slack after the 43-year-old participated in the All-Star Game. It looks like Brandon Pirri will get back into the lineup after being a healthy scratch for the last four games, so hopefully he isn’t too fired up. 

On the blueline, they’re led by fellow All-Star Aaron Ekblad, who has 21 points (10G / 11A) and a plus-22 rating in 46 games this season. The blueline is insulated by veterans Brian Cambell and Erik Gudbranson, but they’ll be without Willie Mitchell for a fifth straight game. 

BETWEEN THE PIPES

With Petr Mrazek starting last night, Blashill will roll with Jimmy Howard tonight. Howard has not recorded a win since December 3rd and has given up at least three goals in six consecutive starts. Hopefully for the Red Wings’ sake, he was able to reset during the All-Star break and is poised for a return to his former self. Howard has gone 2-2-3 with a 3.08 GAA and .905 SV% on the road this season. 

After getting Tuesday night off, Roberto Luongo will get back in the crease tonight for Florida. Luongo has won three consecutive games while posting a 1.00 GAA, .967 SV% and one shutout. His numbers are right there beside Mrazek’s (2.08 GAA, .930 SV%), so it won’t be easy to get pucks past him tonight—he made 28 saves in the first meeting. 

WORDS FROM THE ENEMY

Hopefully the Panthers are spending more time game planning for Peyton Manning and the Broncos than they are for the Red Wings. Also, Bobby Lu…it’s PEYTON, not PAYTON! Come on, the guy is a legend. 

WHERE TO WATCH

Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m. ET at BB&T Arena in Sunrise, Florida. The game will be televised locally on Fox Sports Detroit and aired on 97.1 FM The Ticket. 

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