Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

WGD #49: Three things to watch for against Florida

The Red Wings play their last home game of the month of January tonight, with the visiting Florida Panthers in town. Following this Atlantic Division affair, the Red Wings will head out to the Midwest for two games. After that, Detroit will go on their bye week, playing no games for a full week.

On to the task at hand, the Panthers are fourth in the Atlantic Division with a 25-16-5 record. To boot, they’ve also won their last three games, including a convincing 8-4 win against Toronto on Sunday.

Projected Lines

Detroit Red Wings

Head coach Jeff Blashill mixed up the lines on the fly in the Pittsburgh game, so there is no telling how long the above lines will last. Luke Glendening remains on the top-line, despite taking a game-deciding penalty in overtime of Friday night’s game. No matter, the Red Wings badly need Anthony Mantha and Andreas Athanasiou to return from injury.

One player to keep an eye on is Givani Smith. The 21-year-old has been playing well as of late and making a case for a promotion. Smith’s ice-time has kept going up and he appears to be a regular on the powerplay now.

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Florida Panthers

The Panthers top-line of Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, and Evgenii Dadonov is at good as it gets. The dynamic trio is rated as the fourth best line in the entire NHL, per Corsica ratings. They’ll be a handful for the Detroit defense, no doubt.

Missing in action is Chris Driedger. Driedger has been one of the surprise stories of the season. The 25-year-old has stepped in and posted a strong .932 save percentage in nine games. Sunday morning it was announced that he’ll be sidelined for several weeks, meaning Sergei Bobrovsky will have to pick up his game, despite a very underwhelming season for the former two time Vezina Trophy winner.

Three Thoughts

1.) Clock ticking on Howard

Jimmy Howard played maybe his best game of the season last night. Not exactly high standards, but it was something, in an otherwise dreadful season for the Syracuse, NY, native. Howard has only won two games the entire season, which may ultimately cost Detroit at the trade deadline.

With Howard being a pending unrestricted free agent, and the NHL trading deadline a month away, one has to question how much longer we will see Howard with the Winged Wheel on his sweater. Will Steve Yzerman opt to move the veteran netminder? The same can be asked about other soon-to-be UFAs like Mike Green and Trevor Daley. Savor their play (good and bad) while you can, their days in Motown could be numbered.

2.) Free Perlini

Brendan Perlini hasn’t played a game since Jan. 5, sitting out the last five games as a healthy scratch. Even with the injuries up front, he’s been passed over by call-ups Filip Zadina and Givani Smith. Adam Erne has also established himself as a physical presence, or, at least more so than the impact Perlini was bringing.

Nevertheless, Perlini has brought much needed speed to the lineup, it just hasn’t resulted in goals. In 25 games, the former Chicago Blackhawk has only registered two assists. One has to wonder when we see Perlini draw back into the lineup. An unfortunate situation for a highly talented player, who just hasn’t been able to find a rhythm.

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3.) Previous matchups

These two clubs have met twice already this season, once in Detroit and once in Sunrise. Going back to Dec. 28, the Panthers squeezed out a 5-4 victory. Driedger was in the cage and turned away 35 of 39 shots. One of the goal scorers included Frans Nielsen, who potted a short-handed goal for his first of the season. Since then, Nielsen has performed considerably better, in terms of scoring.

On Nov. 2, Bobrovsky earned a 22-save shutout. He’ll most likely be in net tonight, so the Wings will get another opportunity to score on the former Columbus Blue Jacket.