Panthers-Red Wings series mini preview

The Detroit Red Wings host the Florida Panthers tonight and tomorrow (7 PM EST tonight on FSD/FS Florida/97.1 FM and Sunday at 5 PM EST on FSD/FS Florida/97.1 FM), kicking off a stretch of six games between the teams over the course of the next four weeks.

While the Wings possess a 2-5-and-1 record, the Panthers sit at 3-0-and-1, and their latest game came Thursday, when they lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

If you want to watch highlights of that game, you can do so here:

Our friends from Florida are obviously off to a hell of a start, and they’ve won 6 straight games against the Wings in Detroit. Field Level Media posted a game preview ahead of tonight’s affair…

The Panthers have played just four games due to COVID-19 issues. They won their first three games before Thursday’s 3-2 road shootout loss to Columbus.

“I don’t think we’re walking out of here licking our wounds by any means, but we obviously have to know we can beat a team like this and take a lead in games,” defenseman Aaron Ekblad said. “There’s a lot to work on, no doubt. Be happy about it, but never satisfied.”

Carter Verhaeghe and Patric Hornqvist have gotten off to hot starts, scoring four goals apiece. Anthony Duclair has five assists.

Hornqvist forced overtime on a goal with three seconds left in regulation during a shootout victory over Columbus. In the rematch, Eetu Luostarinen scored a third-period goal to force overtime.

“On the road against a team we know works hard, we came in and had two great comebacks in the third period,” Ekblad said. “We really showed our resiliency as a team. A lot of positives to take out of it, and a lot of things we can work on. All in all, we’re really excited to get to Detroit.”

Neither team practiced on Friday, so we won’t know the Panthers’ prospective lineup for tonight until the morning skate, but’s Jameson C. Olive notes that the Panthers’ back-up, Chris Driedger, is making a heavy push for more starts:

Despite taking the loss, backup goaltender Chris Driedger was excellent in net. Making just his second start of the season – and getting his first taste of action in 11 days – the 26-year-old denied 29 of 31 shots in regulation and overtime before stopping three of four in the shootout.

In two starts this season, Driedger is 1-0-1 with a .934 save percentage.

While we won’t know until after this morning’s skate if Driedger or Sergei Bobrovsky, who is sitting at 2-0-0 on the season, will be starting against the Red Wings tonight, it’s safe to assume that we’ll likely see both goaltenders over the weekend given the tiring nature of back-to-backs.

“I thought he was real good,” Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said of Driedger’s performance after Thursday’s loss. “I thought he was rock solid. Would have been real nice to get him a win.”

Earning at least one point in every game so far this season, Carter Verhaeghe leads Florida in scoring with six points and is tied with Patric Hornqvist for the most goals (4). Joining the team as a free agent during the offseason, the 25-year-old forward is really starting to come into his own with the Panthers while teaming up on a line with Aleksander Barkov and Anthony Duclair.

Leading the charge on offense, that trio has combined for 15 points (five goals, 10 assists).

“We like what he’s doing,” Quenneville said of Verhaeghe. “That line’s been very dangerous every game. They all do a little bit something different, but certainly you like his consistency.”

The Red Wings’ morning skate starts at 10:30 AM, and, after dropping consecutive games against Dallas, we may see some lineup changes.

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George Malik

My name is George Malik, and I'm the Malik Report's editor/blogger/poster. I have been blogging about the Red Wings since 2006, when MLive hired me to work their SlapShots blog, and I joined Kukla's Korner in 2011 as The Malik Report. I'm starting The Malik Report as a stand-alone site, hoping that having my readers fund the website is indeed the way to go to build a better community and create better content.