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.