Game Day Preview: Detroit Red Wings at Florida Panthers February 18, 2011

Florida: 24-25-7 (55PTS)
Visitor: 37-13-9 (76PTS)
Season Series: 0-0-0

Tonight, the Panthers host the Detroit Red Wings. The last time the Wings were in town, the visiting fans swarmed the BankAtlantic Center and took it over in a way even Montreal Canadiens fans don't. The outcry from Panthers fans following guys in Red Wings sweaters playing in arena games and riding the Zamboni while taunting Panthers fans led to a new rule that participants in any on-ice or in-arena games are not permitted to wear enemy gear. The tarps are up and the game looks to be a close to a sellout. The arena will be full of visiting fans, though hopefully the fact that it's a Friday night game will mean that the number isn't overwhelming. In any case, I am of the opinion that as long as the visiting team's fans aren't overwhelming, a rink full of fans is better than an empty one. The atmosphere should be good tonight, especially as this game won't have the baggage of a game against the Canadiens. The Red Wings are a fun team to watch and if the Panthers start this game like they finished the last one, this should be one of the most exciting of their season, no matter what the final score.

This is the only meeting this season between the two teams. The Panthers won last year's meeting in Detroit 2-1 after losing the previous two games.

The Panthers lost 4-2 to the Flyers on Wednesday night. The Cats started the third down 3-1 after sleepwalking through most of the first two periods, but came close to tying it in a flurry of offense in the second half of the third period. The Flyers started to hold the lead and the Panthers were all over them, but were unable to capitalize on their numerous chances. An empty net goal by Danny Briere with just over half a minute left sealed the Flyers' lead. The Red Wings come to Florida after pounding former franchise player and longtime team captain Steve Yzerman's Tampa Bay Lightning. The Wings won 6-2. The best hope for the Panthers is that they tired themselves out last night.

Forward Steve Bernier was kept out of Wednesday night's game with flu-like symptoms. THe Panthers didn't have enough time to call anyone up for that game. Bernier is still sick, so forward Kenndal McArdle was called up from Rochester to take his place. He has 11 penalty minutes and 2 shots in five games for the Panthers this season. He has 12 goals, 10 assists and 87 penalty minutes in 43 games for the Amerks. Expect the forward lines to remain the same as last game, but with McArdle on Scott Timmins' wing opposite Darcy Hordichuk. According to Panthers' television announcer Steve Goldstein, captain Bryan McCabe will return for tonight's game. This is good news as the Panthers could certainly use his help tonight. Joe Callahan appears to still be on the roster, probably in case McCabe isn't able to play tomorrow night. Tomas Vokoun should be the starting goaltender. Nothing is announced, but expect him tonight and maybe tomorrow depending on tonight's outcome.

The Red Wings are slightly favored to win this one, but believe it or not, it's the closest game of the night. Detroit is the highest scoring team in the league, and the Panthers have a dismal power play. But the Cats are also one of the best on the penalty kill. They take the fewest penalties in the league, allow the fewest power play goals per game and are third in penalty killing at 85.6%. Florida's goals against overall are better than Detroit's and their goal differential is surprisingly close. It's very probable this will be another 1-goal game. The Panthers have a good shot to get at least a point here.

More from our Detroit cohorts at Winging It In Motown

Red Wings vs Panthers coverage at

TSN Preview here.

Here's McCabe after the pre-game skate, via the Official Site. He's still talking a little funny, but looks like he's dying to get out there.