Red Wings-Panthers Preview

Against two of the top teams in the East, the Detroit Red Wings’

offense has come alive. Keeping their strong play going when facing

one of that conference’s worst clubs should be even easier.

The Red Wings look to match a season-high four-game winning

streak Friday night when they visit the last-place Florida

Panthers.

Detroit (35-16-6) scored four goals and was blanked twice in a

four-game stretch from Feb. 4-9. However, after outscoring Boston

10-3 in a home-and-home series sweep last weekend, the Red Wings

defeated Tampa Bay 6-2 on Thursday in the opener of a three-game

road trip.

Detroit scored twice in the first period and responded with two

goals in the final 3 1/2 minutes of the second period after the

Lightning tied it. Pavel Datsyuk finished with two goals, Danny

Cleary had one goal and two assists and Jimmy Howard made 38

saves.

“This is the standard in the league. This is the best all-around

team,” Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said of the Red Wings, who have

the second-best record in the West behind Vancouver.

The return of Datsyuk continues to pay off for Detroit. Since

coming back from a broken right wrist that sidelined him 19 games,

Datsyuk has four goals and three assists in five games.

Datsyuk also has registered at least one point in each contest

he’s played against Florida, totaling four goals and seven assists

in eight games.

With Detroit’s offense on a roll after defeating two division

leaders, the team will look to win four straight for the first time

since Nov. 26-Dec. 3. The Red Wings, who are 18-8-2 on the road

this season, have won four of their last five and 10 of 14 away

from Detroit.

Currently 12th in the East, Florida (24-25-7) could struggle to

put up a challenge. It has lost three of four, including a 4-2

defeat to Philadelphia on Wednesday.

After the Flyers scored twice 65 seconds apart in the first

period, and leading 3-0 in the second, the Panthers had a potential

goal by Marty Reasoner denied following a review. Florida scored

twice in the third to draw within one, but lamented opportunities

that were lost early.

“If we had played a solid first, it might have been a different

game,” said Chris Higgins, a forward for Southeast Division-worst

Florida. “We didn’t show up with our sharpest game in the first and

it cost us.”

This closes a five-game homestand for the Panthers, who have

dropped six of their last seven at home, scoring more than two

goals only once over that stretch.

Detroit lost its only meeting with Florida last season, 2-1 in

overtime at home. However, the Red Wings are 7-1-1 with two ties on

the road in the series, and haven’t fallen in regulation at Florida

since a 3-1 defeat in 1996.