Red Wings-Panthers Preview
All season long, one of the biggest issues for the Detroit Red Wings has been finishing games.
Having Pavel Datsyuk back might help them figure out how to stop that trend.
The Red Wings' failure to close out again cost them over the weekend against the Florida Panthers, but on Tuesday night they're expected to get the three-time Selke Trophy winner back as they hit the road with a chance for revenge.
Detroit (15-9-7) ranks near the bottom of the league with 33 goals allowed in the third period and it's lost five games when leading after two periods - more than anyone in the league.
The Red Wings gave up four in the third in Wednesday's 6-3 loss to Philadelphia before beating New Jersey on Friday, and although they didn't blow a third-period lead Saturday in Florida, they did lose for the second time in three games after scoring first.
Jonathan Huberdeau scored at 3:29 of the final period to give Florida a 2-1 win as the Panthers outshot the Wings 28-14 over the final two periods for their first win in eight tries within the Atlantic Division.
"We have to find ways to win games, and the way we have to play right now is grind for 60 minutes," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "They skated better in the second and third, and we didn't make many plays.
"We talk about being mentally tough enough to find a way to fight through in the third period, and we didn't get it done."
The return of Datsyuk, one of the league's best defensive forwards, should help after he missed seven games with a concussion. Datsyuk has been a workhorse offensively against the Panthers, producing five goals and eight assists in 10 career games meetings.
Henrik Zetterberg (herniated disc) is still at least a week away from coming back, but Datsyuk's return will give the Wings one half of their dynamic duo back.
"Hank and Pav are all over the ice. We don't have them, this is what have right now," defenseman Niklas Kronwall told the team's official website. "We're a better team than what we showed. We have to find ways to win games regardless if they're in or not.
"Every team goes through injuries and right now that bug has hit us a bit. Every team goes through it we just have to find a way through it."
The Panthers (9-17-5) played a game a night after beating the Red Wings on Saturday, losing to the Blackhawks 6-2 in Chicago. The Blackhawks scored on 3 of 4 power-play opportunities, while the Panthers were 0 for 5 with the man advantage.
"I don't think we were very good to start the game," interim coach Peter Horachek told the team's official website. "Obviously to come back against this team in this building after giving them that lead in the first period is going to be difficult, so back-to-back is not an excuse ... you have to be mentally tougher and in that situation.
"You have to have some energy to make sure you're doing all the right things."
Panthers goalie Tim Thomas rested against the Blackhawks, but he beat the Red Wings on Saturday and is expected to be in net again for Florida. He was strong against Detroit, stopping 22 of 23 shots, but his 2.81 goals-against average isn't good enough to crack the league's top 30.
The Red Wings' Jimmy Howard (2.70 GAA) hasn't been much better, but he's expected to be back in net Tuesday after Jonas Gustavsson started the previous two games. Howard is 1-4-4 with a 2.92 GAA in his last nine starts.
Tuesday marks the return of Stephen Weiss to Florida after the center spent 11 years with the Panthers. Weiss signed a five-year, $24.5 million deal with the Red Wings in July but has been a disappointment, producing four points in 25 games.