Red Wings seek to rebound vs. Panthers

(SportsNetwork.com) – The Detroit Red Wings hope to rebound from a loss and
win for the eighth time in 10 outings when they host the Florida Panthers in
Friday’s clash at Joe Louis Arena.

Detroit boasts a 7-1-1 record over its last nine games, but is coming off
Wednesday’s shootout loss against visiting Toronto. The 2-1 setback snapped
the club’s winning streak at three games, but the point gained put the Red
Wings in sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Division.

The Red Wings have since fallen one point behind Tampa Bay for the division’s
top spot after the Lightning beat Carolina on Thursday. Detroit could once
again overtake the idle Bolts with a win tonight.

Detroit led the Maple Leafs 1-0 after Gustav Nyquist scored late in the second
period, but that would be all the offense the Wings could muster against
Toronto’s James Reimer, who stopped 41 shots for the visitors.

Phil Kessel evened the score at 5:09 of the second period and Mike Santorelli
tallied the winning goal in the shootout. With the final attempt, Santorelli
skated in on net and buried a wrister between the pads of Jimmy Howard for the
victory.

Howard finished the game with 18 stops through regulation and overtime, but
his team fell to 1-4 this season in shootouts.

Detroit head coach Mike Babcock was pleased with his team’s effort despite the
end result. The Red Wings dominated play for much of Wednesday’s game,
outshooting the Leafs 42-19 for the game and 18-6 in the third period alone.

“I thought we played good,” Babcock said. “We got a point. They stole two
points but I’ll take it every night. If you play like that you’re going to
win.”

Despite the loss, Detroit still boasts a 11-3-3 record on home ice this
season.

Howard will start tonight and he is 2-1-1 with a 1.95 goals against average in
four career games against Florida.

Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser will miss tonight’s game with an upper-
body injury and he also is expected to sit out Saturday’s game in Toronto.
Justin Abdelkader has missed the last five games with a bruised left shoulder
and is questionable for tonight.

Florida has lost three of five games in December after ending last month on a
two-game winning streak.

The Panthers hope to get back on track against the Red Wings, as Florida
enters Friday’s battle having won two of three and four of the last six
meetings with Detroit. Florida also has taken three in a row in the Motor City
and boasts a 4-0-1 mark in its last five trips to Joe Louis Arena.

Florida opened a three-game road trip Monday in St. Louis and fell to 5-4-5 as
the guest after a 4-2 setback. The Panthers tied the score at 2-2 on an Aaron
Ekblad goal early in the third period, but Chris Porter delivered the game-
winner for the Blues with 1:54 remaining in regulation. Paul Stastny added an
empty-net tally to seal the victory for the home team.

Ekblad, a leading candidate for the NHL’s Calder Trophy, is pacing all rookie
defensemen in goals (5) and assists (13) this season.

Nick Bjugstad also scored for Florida, which received 24 stops from Roberto
Luongo in defeat.

“Disappointed to lose the way we lost at the end, but I thought we battled
hard and competed hard with a really good club,” Panthers head coach Gerard
Gallant said.

Luongo is expected to start tonight for Florida. He owns a 12-13-5 record and
a 2.88 GAA in 31 career games against the Red Wings.

The Panthers could get Scottie Upshall back in the lineup tonight. The forward
has missed the last seven games due to an ankle injury, but Upshall practiced
on Thursday and is questionable for tonight. Fellow forward Aleksander Barkov,
who has sat out the last four games with groin and hand issues, also practiced
on Thursday, but is not expected to return to game action until next week.

Florida will complete its road trip Saturday in Buffalo.