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WGD: Game 8: Red Wings @ Panthers

After a 6-5 shootout win against the Capitals last night, the Florida Panthers finally won their first game of the season. So those of you who were hoping to see the Battle of the Losers tonight when the Red Wings roll into town are going to be sorely disappointed. The Red Wings are now the only winless team in the NHL.

In the midst of a very tough stretch of games, many are questioning if the Wings will win a game at all in October. The Panthers are probably their best chance and, on the back half of a back-to-back against the defending Cup champs, the Wings have the benefit of a day of rest before the 7:00 P.M. puck drop tonight.

THE RED WINGS

Detroit Red Wings lines via DailyFaceoff

Based on practice yesterday, it doesn’t look like the lines are going to change after Thursday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. I had a pretty visceral reaction to them:

I Just Saw the New Lines and My Head Hurts

To Jeff Blashill’s credit though, the team played pretty well against Tampa. There was some light line blending mid-game, but these were them for the most part. Darren Helm gave it his all and created a couple of scoring chances for Dylan Larkin and Gustav Nyquist. Frans Nielsen centering Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Bertuzzi looked good out there, too, but I’d much rather see AA transitioning to center at this point.

Thomas Vanek and Anthony Mantha still looked pretty invisible and they’re going to have to turn it on soon if they want to make an impact.

As for the defence, Jonathan Ericsson is slated to make his return, but there’s no word yet on who’s coming out or what the pairings will look like. If I had to guess, Luke Witkowski will be joining Filip Hronek in the press box. To accommodate the return of Ericsson to the lineup, Danny DeKeyser has been moved to the IR.

THE PANTHERS

Florida Panthers lines via DailyFaceoff

This Florida Panthers team should be doing more damage than it actually is. Vincent Trochek leads the offensive charge with two goals and seven points followed closely by  Evgenii Dadonov (3G, 3A) who’s having quite the start in his NHL return.

The top-2 lines here have the potential to be deadly. Pairing Dadonov with Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad followed by Trochek with Jonathan Huberdeau and Colton Sceviour is a terrific one-two punch. And then there’s the depth, with Mike Hoffman (who is really a top-6 player), Jared McCann, and Frank Vatrano.

On the back-end, veteran Keith Yandle and Calder Trophy winner Aaron Ekblad make up the first pair with Mark Pysyk and Alex Petrovic rounding out the second. It’s not a terrible offensive D-corps, but they play hard and fast and know how to defend in their own end.

BETWEEN THE PIPES

Jimmy Howard vs. Michael Hutchinson

After a strong showing in Tampa Bay, Howard is likely to get the nod again tonight. With more and more experience being added onto the blueline as the veterans return from their injuries, the Red Wings goaltenders should be getting more defensive support. The Red Wings have the worst 5v5 save percentage in the league and they are looking to improve on that by not leaving their goaltender out to dry.

You’re probably wondering which team has the second worst save percentage in the league now. It’s the Florida Panthers. Their goaltenders have collectively allowed 19 goals so far this season. Since James Reimer played last night against Washington, Michael Hutchinson is likely to get the nod tonight. Coming to Florida as a free agent, Hutchinson has played in two games so far (one start and one in relief) and posted a .838 save percentage. He’s certainly not their starting option, but he’s a fine option against the last place team.

HOW TO WATCH

Puck drop is at 7:00 P.M. EST and you’ll be able to watch the game on Fox Sports Detroit and Fox Sports Florida.

As always, follow us on Twitter to get instant reactions and all the hilarious jokes that we will be making throughout the night.