The Detroit Red Wings are going to be a motivated bunch heading into tonight's game against the Florida Panthers. After being mostly outplayed in the last game against the Wings, Florida managed to come back late and win it in a shootout, 5-4, shocking the Detroit squad who blew a two-goal lead late in the third period. The Panthers have a 3-1 edge in the season series against their new division rivals, but Detroit has the last laugh at the moment, sitting 11 points ahead of Florida in the standings. They'll have a chance tonight to pad that lead to 13 points, provided they can avoid any late-game meltdowns.
So, any guess as to which Panthers team we'll see tonight? Will it be the hard-working, energetic lineup from Tuesday's 4-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs? Will it be the half-assed, lackadaisical team that allowed 16 goals in three games before the Toronto win, while only scoring six themselves? Or will it be the team that beat Detroit last time while only managing to actually play hard for a single period? Your guess is as good as mine, folks, although I must say that watching the team that worked hard and skated with a purpose reminded me what it's like to watch a true NHL lineup play a full 60 minutes to get a victory and two important points in the standings.
Let's hope that team shows up again tonight. Come enjoy some LBC GameThread lovin' and check out Winging it in Motown for the Detroit POV.
Players to Watch
- Pavel Datsyuk - It seems that every time the Wings played the Panthers this season, one of their stars came back from an injury against the Cats. That will likely hold true tonight as Datsyuk will be returning to the Detroit lineup after suffering a knee injury in early January. We all know what kind of player Datsyuk is and what he's capable of, so let's hope the Florida lineup remembers that too.
- Tomas Fleischmann - Flash hasn't been so flashy, but last game was his best in weeks, as he was using his speed and skating north to south to generate chances. He didn't score, but had a couple high-quality shots and played a very energetic, fast, and hard-working game. When Flash is skating north to south, using his speed through the neutral zone, he is a very dangerous player and makes space for his linemates. It'd be nice to see him tally a goal soon but even if he doesn't, as long as he's using his speed in that fashion, good things are going to happen.
- Gustav Nyquist - Despite missing time with injuries this season, Nyquist is starting to round into form for the Wings at the right time. With 13 points in his last nine games, he's tearing it up offensively and filling in some of the void left by the injured Datsyuk. The Red Wings are fantastic at mining European talent, and Nyquist is no exception, being drafted in the 4th round (121st overall). The Panthers scouts could learn a thing or two from that, I think.
- Tim Thomas - Thomas had a bounce-back game against the Leafs on Tuesday after being a sieve in his previous three starts. A very, very large part of that was due to the play of the guys in front of him, both the forwards and the defensemen. Thomas' age belies his skill, but what is obvious at this point is that Thomas will do much better for the Cats if they can keep the shots and chances against him down. He will still make big saves every game, but the less of those he has to make, the better he seems to be at making them.