Florida Panthers Visit Detroit Red Wings: Game 79 Preview

With a win in Motown this afternoon, the Florida Panthers can reduce their playoff magic number to one.

The Panthers visit the Red Wings tonight at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan at 4:00 PM ET. This is the only time the two teams have played each other this season. The Panthers are 17-16-6 (.513) on the road, while the Red Wings have a 30-6-2 (.816) home record, good for second best in the NHL.

Florida is playing in the final game of a four game roadtrip. They've gone 1-1-1 so far, beating the Montreal Canadiens in a shootout on Tuesday, 3-2, and losing in overtime to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, also 3-2. They dropped a 4-1 matchup to the NHL worst Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday. They return home on Tuesday to face the Winnipeg Jets. Florida's magic number for a division title is still five (over division second place Washington) after the Capitals shootout victory over the Montreal Canadiens last night. The magic number for a playoff berth has been reduced to three with Buffalo's 4-3 loss to Toronto.

The Red Wings are finishing out a short two game homestand. They dropped the first game to the Nashville Predators, 4-1 on Friday, and hit the road to face the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night. They don't have a magic number, but are nearly assured of either a four, five, or six seed based on where everything shakes out over the final four games.

The two last faced each other on February 18th, 2011 in Sunrise. Todd Bertuzzi (13, 14), Danny Cleary (19) and Pavel Datsyuk (17) each scored on Tomas Vokoun, who stopped 26-30 shots for the loss. Raded Dvorak (7), Dennis Wideman (9), and Stephen Weiss (16) tallied the goals for Florida. Joey MacDonald allowed three goals on 32 shots for the win. In spite of the game occuring at the Bank Atlantic Center, play had to be halted twice while octopi were cleaned off the ice. Mike Babcock spoke afterwards,

"That was a big one," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock joked about the first incident. "I was glad they throw it when we had a good play going. I think the guys we're covering their faces so they wouldn't laugh. I just didn't want anyone to get hurt."

Red Wings @ Panthers 2/18/11 (via NHLVideo)

The Panthers lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night, 4-1. Emergency Jackets goaltender Allen York stopped 30-of-31 Florida shots, allowing only a third period wrister to Tomas Kopecky (9). RJ Umberger (16, 17) opened and closed the scoring, while Nikita Nikitin (6, 7) also tallied two markers on Jose Theodore (25-of-28). Coach Kevin Dineen explained the (lack of) effort after the game,


"We looked tired for one," Florida coach Kevin Dineen said. "We looked tight and certainly there were some coaching mistakes that happened that obviously get hung on me. That's the state of things right now."

Panthers @ Blue Jackets 03/30/12 (via NHLVideo)

You can read even more on The Cannon.

Pekka Rinne (31-of-32) allowed the only Red Wings goal, a wrister from Jiri Hudler (24) with three minutes remaining as the Predators took Detroit, 4-1. Gabriel Bourque (6), Francis Bouillon (3), Alexander Radulov (2) and Shea Weber (17) scored on Jimmy Howard (23-of-26) for the win. After the game, Babcock addressed the media about the possible first round playoff series preview,

"I just think they’re a deeper team than they were," Wings coach Mike Babcock said, referring to the Predators' roster additions. "I mean, anytime you add [Hal Gill], Radulov and [Andrei Kostitsyn], they’re a deep team for sure, and we’re going to need [injured center Darren Helm] too. I think he can help us against this team or against any team, but we’ve just got to keep plugging away here."

Predators @ Red Wings 03/30/12 (via NHLVideo)

For more, check out On The Forecheck.

Common Thread:

Panthers winger Tomas Kopecky played 183 games over four seasons for the Wings, scoring 12 goals and 20 assists with a minus-6 rating and 113 penalty minutes.

Panthers winger Mikael Samuelsson played 278 games over four seasons with Detroit, scoring 67 goals and 92 assists with a plus-49 rating and 146 penalty minutes.

Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi played all of seven games for the Panthers in 2006-07, scoring one goal and six assists with a minus-4 rating and 13 penalty minutes.

Panthers Milestones:
Games:

Shawn Matthias will pass Bret Hedican into 38th with his 203rd Panther game tonight.


Goals:
Kris Versteeg sits in 50th with 22 goals scored. Jason Garrison has 23 in 49th. Shawn Matthias and Tomas Fleischmann are tied in 45th with Mike Van Ryn, with 25 each. Mike Santorelli will move into a tie with Niklas Hagman in 37th all-time with his next goal, number 30. Ed Jovanovski will move into 32nd with his next goal, number 32, with Richard Zednik.

Assists:
Brian Campbell will move into a tie with Keith Ballard in 40th all-time with his 48th assist. Dmitry Kulikov will tie Valeri Bure in 32nd all-time with his 56th assist.

Panthers Leaders:
Games:

Mike Weaver, Brian Campbell, Tomas Fleischmann - 78

Goals:

Tomas Fleischmann - 25
Kris Versteeg - 22
Stephen Weiss - 19
Sean Bergenheim - 17

Assists:
Brian Campbell - 47
Stephen Weiss - 36
Tomas Fleischmann - 33

Points:
Tomas Fleischmann - 58
Stephen Weiss - 55
Brian Campbell - 51
Kris Versteeg - 50

Plus/Minus:
Stephen Weiss - plus-7
Jason Garrison - plus-5
Kris Versteeg - plus-4

Point Shares:
Jose Theodore - 9.9
Brian Campbell - 8.0
Jason Garrison - 7.9
Tomas Fleischmann - 6.8
Stephen Weiss, Kris Versteeg - 6.2

Panthers Injuries:
Jack Skille and Matt Bradley are both out, Skille for the season, and Bradley until April at the earliest.

Panthers Starting Lineups:
Forwards:
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Scottie Upshall
Sean Bergenheim - Marcel Goc - Mikael Samuelsson
Wojtek Wolski - Shawn Matthias - Kris Versteeg
Krys Barch- John Madden - Tomas Kopecky

Defensemen:
Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Erik Gudbranson

Goaltender: Jose Theodore (22-15-10, .920, 2.38) and Scott Clemmensen (13-6-5, .908, 2.71) remain Florida's options in net, at the time of this writing neither has been confirmed.

Red Wings Injuries:
Darren Helm is out until April with an MCL. Joe MacDonald is out with a bulging disc, and not expected back this season. Patrick Eaves has been out since Thanksgiving with post-concussion symptoms sustained when his jaw was fractured.

Red Wings Starting Lineup:
Forwards:

Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Gustav Nyquist - Pavel Datsyuk - Johan Franzen
Danny Cleary - Justin Abdelkader - Todd Bertuzzi
Drew Miller - Cory Emmerton - Tomas Holmstrom

Defensemen:
Niklas Lidstrom - Jonathan Ericsson
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Kyle Quincey - Jakub Kindl

Goalie:
Jimmy Howard (33-16-3, .919, 2.16) is confirmed as today's starter.

Corsi Ratings: (last five games)

Florida Panthers:
Scottie Upshall - .625
Mikael Samuelsson - .619
Jerred Smithson - 596
Dmitry Kulikov - .589
Sean Bergenheim - .585

Detroit Red Wings:
Jakub Kindl - .651
Henrik Zetterberg - .580
Nicklas Lidstrom - .577
Jan Mursak - .561
Jiri Hudler - .560

Standings:
Florida Panthers:
37-25-16, 90 points, first Southeast Division, third Eastern Conference, 14th NHL, on pace for 95 points. Last five games: O-O-W-O-L. Playoff odds: 98.3%

Detroit Red Wings: 46-27-5, 97 points, third Central Division, fifth Western Conference, seventh NHL, on pace for 102 points. Last five games: O-W-W-L-L. Playoff odds: 100%

Check out Winging It In Motown for more on today's action. Go to Litter Box Cats for your daily Panthers fix.

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