Preview: Panthers look to extend win streak to three games, host Red Wings
TV: FOX Sports Florida
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.
SUNRISE, Fla. — The Florida Panthers return home to face the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night at the BB&T Center with a modest two-game win streak.
It is Florida’s longest surge since winning five straight from Dec. 19 to Dec. 30.
Both of Florida’s wins during the current streak happened on the road.
Both of them came with rookie Harri Sateri in goal. He waited a decade from the time he was drafted in the fourth round by the San Jose Sharks until Tuesday, when he finally collected his first NHL victory.
“There are a lot of good things happening here,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner told the media after Thursday’s 4-2 win in Buffalo over the Sabres. “It’s only two wins. We’ve got to keep clawing our way back into (the playoff race).”
Florida (21-22-6) is still a long shot for the postseason, but Sateri has quickly become a great story.
The 28-year-old native of Finland was promoted from the Panthers’ Springfield Thunderbirds American Hockey League affiliate on Dec. 6, coinciding with a right-leg injury suffered by future Hall of Fame goalie Roberto Luongo.
Sateri, who has also played in Russia’s KHL and Finland’s Liiga, sat the bench for about a month as the Panthers rode “1A goalie” James Reimer, who made 19 of 20 starts during one stretch.
But when Reimer got hurt in almost identical fashion as Luongo — both goalies hurt their right legs while making a kick save — Sateri got his chance.
This week, Sateri has allowed just three goals in his two games, making 62 saves. Luongo and Reimer won’t begin practicing until next week, which means Sateri will get at least a couple more games in the nets.
Sateri, meanwhile, got support this week from players such as defenseman Mike Matheson, who scored one goal in each of the two games. Matheson has six goals this season — all of them on the road.
Other trends include improved play by 21-year-old forward Denis Malgin, who has three goals in his past four games.
And then there’s this Panthers gem: The team is 13-0-0 when leading after two periods.
Keith Yandle scored one goal and added two assists on Thursday, when the Panthers converted on two of their seven power-play chances.
Meanwhile, the Red Wings (21-21-8), who beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 on Friday night, will arrive at the BB&T Center a tired bunch due to the short turnaround plus the travel involved.
Detroit is led by Dylan Larkin, who has 38 points (eight goals, 30 assists), and right winger Anthony Mantha, who has 14 assists and a team-high 16 goals.
Jimmy Howard (14-16-6) had been the starting goalie, but backup Petr Mrazek (7-5-2) beat the Hurricanes on Friday with 36 saves.
Mrazek has started three of the past four games, and Howard seems resigned to his current fate.
“I’ve been around long enough,” Howard told The Detroit News. “I realize the team needs wins and points.”
Indeed, the Wings are six points out of current playoff position. The Panthers are eight points out, giving added significance to a game between two desperate teams.