The Detroit Red Wings begin their second 2-game series of the year against the Florida Panthers on Sunday (3 PM EST start on FSD/FS Florida/97.1 FM), a team that handed Detroit consecutive losses a week ago at Little Caesars Arena. The next two games will take place at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida tomorrow and Tuesday.
Detroit is mired in a 6-game road losing streak and an 8-game winless streak (0-6-and-2), coming off a 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, and while the Wings did practice on Saturday, details are scant relating what happened away from home, other than the fact that Jonathan Bernier and Tyler Bertuzzi remain sidelined with upper-body injuries.
Figuring out details about the Panthers is harder than usual this evening: the 6-0-and-2 Panthers are technically unbeaten, though they did “lose” a 6-5 OT decision to Nashville on Thursday before rebounding with a 2-1 win on Friday to split their latest series.
As a result of the team playing back-to-back games on consecutive nights, the Panthers did not practice on Saturday, and neither team will hold a morning skate on Sunday due to the early start time.
Field Level Media offers a very good game preview:
While nothing seems to be going right for the Wings, quite the opposite is true for the Panthers.
Florida’s top line of center Aleksander Barkov and wingers Verhaeghe and Anthony Duclair have gotten off to a fast start. Barkov and Verhaeghe each had one goal and one assist in a 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Friday night.
The speedy Duclair — new to the team this year along with Verhaeghe — has no goals but is third on the Panthers with six assists.
“We’re working hard,” Verhaeghe said. “(Barkov) is a great player. We click well.”
The Panthers, who are injury free, also have a solid goaltending duo of Chris Driedger and Sergei Bobrovsky, each of whom has a 3-0-1 record. Driedger (.942 save percentage, 1.72 GAA) got the start on Friday.
“He was a rock,” Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said of Driedger. “He takes up a lot of net. He’s very patient and poised, and rebounds seem to stick to him.”
Bobrovsky (.881 save percentage, 3.57 GAA) will likely get the start on Sunday.
Jonathan Huberdeau, largely on the strength of a five-point game and his first career hat trick against Nashville on Thursday, leads Florida with 12 points. Barkov (11 points) and Verhaeghe (nine points) are next on the team.
We’ll turn next to FloridaPanthers.com’s Jameson Olive’s recap of Friday’s Panthers’ win:
In full control from start to finish, the Panthers extended their season-opening point streak to eight games with a 2-1 win over the Predators at BB&T Center on Friday night.
Getting a bit of revenge in the process, the hard-fought victory came just 24 hours after Florida let a late lead slip through its fingers in a difficult overtime loss to Nashville on Thursday night.
“A very happy team win,” Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. “It’s exciting for the guys, but basically we said this morning, ‘Hey, let’s move past [last night’s loss], let’s get incentivized by it and let’s go out and have our best game.'”
Aided by a fortunate bounce, the Predators jumped out an early 1-0 lead just 4:04 into the first period of tonight’s matchup. After Chris Driedger made the initial stop on Colton Sissons’ shot, the rebound then bounced oddly off Sissons’ skate and trickled into the net to open the scoring.
That’s how the score would hold heading into the first intermission, even though Florida held lopsided advantages in both shots on goal (20-5) and shot attempts (25-11) after 20 minutes.
“We stayed with it even though we were down early,” Quenneville said. “I thought our first period was fine. We did have pucks at the net, a lot of loose stuff. They just weren’t bouncing our way.”
As it stands now, Florida’s eight-game point streak is the second-longest in franchise history to open a season, trailing only the team’s 12-game streak that opened up the 1996-97 campaign.
NHL.com’s Alain Poupart’s recap of Friday’s game is also pertinent…
Verhaeghe gave the Panthers a 2-1 lead at 15:31 when he took a return pass from Barkov below the right face-off circle after Rinne was pulled out of position.
“We’re working hard,” Verhaeghe said. “Last game we were doing a lot of things but just didn’t get rewarded. It’s nice to finally get rewarded tonight. It’s kind of nice, this whole team too, we’re clicking. If one guy is not going, other guys are going. It’s awesome. And the chemistry with me and [Barkov] too. He’s a great player. He’s so easy to play with. We click pretty well.”
Driedger stopped Erik Haula on a breakaway with 17 seconds left in the third period.
“[Driedger] was rock solid again tonight,” Quenneville said. “Big save there late. He takes up a lot of net, very patient, poised, and rebounds seem to stick to him.”
With Rinne pulled for an extra attacker, the Predators ended the game at 6-on-4 after Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad was called for slashing with nine seconds left, but Nashville did not have a shot during the power play.
As is Sportsnet’s highlight clip from said game:
And, absent a Panthers practice on Saturday, FloridaPanthers.com’s Jameson Olive’s Panthers-Preds set-up offers a glimpse of a Panthers lineup that is clearly in flux, because Owen Tippett ended up playing in Friday’s game, with Markus Nutivaara sitting instead.
Long story long, there may be some changes to Florida’s lineup on the third and fourth lines, as well as their third defensive pairing, for change’s sake.
PROJECTED LINEUP (SUBJECT TO CHANGE)
Carter Verhaeghe – Aleksander Barkov – Anthony Duclair
Jonathan Huberdeau – Alex Wennberg – Patric Hornqvist
MacKenzie Weegar – Aaron Ekblad
Keith Yandle – Radko Gudas