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WGD: Game 69: Red Wings vs. Panthers

Today’s game is the nicest game of the season. It’s game #69 for the Red Wings and their playoff hopes are all but dead. After a loss last night to the only team who has clinched a playoff spot so far, the Wings had to cross the state of Florida to get to Sunrise for their bout against the Panthers today.

The Panthers are in a bit better shape than the Red Wings, but being nine points out of a playoff spot with 14 games to go means relying a lot on other teams to lose to make your playoff dreams a reality. They need to be winning much more than they’re losing, but a 3-3-4 record in their last 10 games is far from inspiring. Tonight’s bout against Detroit is one of their easier match-ups in a mixed bag schedule that will likely cause them a lot of trouble.

The total has gone UNDER in 7 of Detroit’s last 10 games on the road – Courtesy of OddsShark

THE RED WINGS

LW C RW
Tyler Bertuzzi
Tyler Bertuzzi

Rating: 73.7#49 LW

Andreas Athanasiou
Andreas Athanasiou

Rating: 76.3#41 C

Anthony Mantha
Anthony Mantha

Rating: 75.2#39 RW

Thomas Vanek
Thomas Vanek

Rating: 72.5#77 LW

Frans Nielsen
Frans Nielsen

Rating: 72.3#97 C

Filip Zadina
Filip Zadina
Justin Abdelkader
Justin Abdelkader

Rating: 70.1#127 LW

Luke Glendening
Luke Glendening

Rating: 69.7#169 C

Darren Helm
Darren Helm

Rating: 71.3#135 RW

Christoffer Ehn
Christoffer Ehn

Rating: 70.6#120 LW

Jacob De La Rose
Jacob De La Rose

Rating: 68.3#183 C

Michael Rasmussen
Michael Rasmussen

Rating: 70.7#151 RW

Defensive Pairings
Dan DeKeyser
Dan DeKeyser

Rating: 71.9#80 LD

Filip Hronek
Filip Hronek

Rating: 72.5#57 RD

Niklas Kronwall
Niklas Kronwall

Rating: 71.6#84 LD

Madison Bowey
Madison Bowey

Rating: 68.2#103 RD

Jonathan Ericsson
Jonathan Ericsson

Rating: 68.4#128 LD

Trevor Daley
Trevor Daley

Rating: 69.9#119 RD

The Red Wings have lots of key players missing, including Dylan Larkin, who should be back this week, and Mike Green, who is out for the remainder of the season. It’s not like their playoff odds were high even with those two in the lineup, but they certainly increased their odds of winning any individual game, which can do wonders for a team’s morale.

Athanasiou is improving every game as a centerman and, with Larkin’s absence, he is playing against some big competition. Filip Zadina is nearing his 9-game limit, but I’ve really enjoyed watching him play. He’s improved every game. He’s going to be exciting to watch as a full-timer next year. It’s too bad he’s been relegated to a line with Vanek and Nielsen, who really slow down the fast-paced game that Zadina can play.

Hopefully we see some changes to the defense pairings today because Daley and Ericsson were atrocious last night. I’m not sure where the improvement comes, though, because DDK-Hronek is the obvious choice for top-pair and I actually kinda like Kronwall-Bowey together. It’s further proof that changes have to happen on the blueline this Summer.

THE PANTHERS

LW C RW
Jonathan Huberdeau
Jonathan Huberdeau

Rating: 79.1#12 LW

Aleksander Barkov
Aleksander Barkov

Rating: 81.8#13 C

Evgenii Dadonov
Evgenii Dadonov

Rating: 76.6#30 RW

Frank Vatrano
Frank Vatrano

Rating: 72.5#90 LW

Vincent Trocheck
Vincent Trocheck

Rating: 76.3#40 C

Mike Hoffman
Mike Hoffman

Rating: 76.0#35 RW

Dryden Hunt
Dryden Hunt

Rating: 72.3#84 LW

Riley Sheahan
Riley Sheahan

Rating: 69.1#177 C

Troy Brouwer
Troy Brouwer

Rating: 69.4#120 RW

Jamie McGinn
Jamie McGinn

Rating: 71.3#103 LW

Henrik Borgstrom
Henrik Borgstrom

Rating: 73.3#76 C

Jayce Hawryluk
Jayce Hawryluk

Rating: 71.9#80 RW

Defensive Pairings
Michael Matheson
Michael Matheson

Rating: 72.7#66 LD

Aaron Ekblad
Aaron Ekblad

Rating: 74.6#28 RD

Keith Yandle
Keith Yandle

Rating: 77.4#12 LD

MacKenzie Weegar
MacKenzie Weegar

Rating: 72.1#65 RD

Mark Pysyk
Mark Pysyk

Rating: 71.6#78 LD

Josh Brown
Josh Brown

The Panthers have a pretty mediocre lineup, but they’ve cleared up a lot of space on their salary cap to make some runs at big free agents. One could argue that they are one superstar away from being truly competitive. They’d likely have to make adjustments to their goaltending too, but that says a lot about how close they are. They are young, they are fast, and they are fierce.

Riley Sheahan is on their lineup now, a recent acquisition from Pittsburgh, so he’ll be facing his former team and Aaron Ekblad always seems to get into it with the Red Wings one way or another. It should be an interesting game, but ultimately the Panthers are rested and the Red Wings will be playing their second game in less than 24-hours. It has the potential to get very ugly.

BETWEEN THE PIPES

Jimmy Howard vs. Roberto Luongo

Bernier played last night against Tampa and actually played a solid game, so expect Howard to get the start tonight. It’s one of the rare back-to-back occasions that Howard gets the easier match-up. Based on Bernier’s performance last night, though, it looks like it was the right decision.

Luongo has been struggling of late. He’s got a .897 save percentage and 3.16 goals against average, both of which are worse than his career average. At 39-years-old, it could be his age catching up to him, but he was a brick wall the last time these two teams played and Florida needs another performance out of him like that.

HOW TO WATCH

It’s a weird start time today at 5:00 P.M. EST. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports Detroit and Fox Sports Florida.