With captain Henrik Zetterberg still out with a back injury and forward Pavel Datsyuk not cleared to play after sustaining a concussion, the Detroit Red Wings will again rely on their top prospects when they face another youthful team, the Florida Panthers, Saturday at Joe Louis Arena.
Datsyuk has missed six games but is expected back in the lineup Tuesday when Detroit completes the home-and-home with Florida and starts a two-game road trip. Zetterberg has missed two games but was at practice Saturday and praised the young Red Wings who have picked up the offensive slack.
That group is headed by forwards Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist, who were members of the Grand Rapids team that won the Calder Cup last summer. The pair have found chemistry with the Red Wings and combined for three points Friday in a 3-1 win against the New Jersey Devils. Tatar has four goals in his past five games.
"Guys are having an opportunity to play and they've been doing well. I think Tatar and Gus do great stuff all the time they're on the ice," Zetterberg told the Red Wings website. "Obviously you don't want to see injuries, but it's how you play through that as a team, sometimes it will make teams stronger."
Goaltender Jonas Gustavsson will get his second start in 24 hours after making 10 saves in Detroit's win at New Jersey. Michigan native Tim Thomas will be in net for Florida, his 14th straight start for the Panthers.
The Panthers have some ailing veterans of their own. Florida coach Peter Horachek said veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski would be out of the lineup until Christmas at the earliest. Jovanovski has not played since undergoing hip surgery in March.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock admitted Florida's young roster was difficult to plan for, especially considering the Red Wings have not played the Panthers since April 1, 2012.
"I know who [Tomas] Kopecky is, I know who [Marcel] Goc is," Babcock told the team website. "But if you think I know who those young kids are, [I have] no idea."
That group includes rookie Aleksander Barkov, who was injured Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets but skated with the team Saturday. Defenseman Matt Gilroy cleared waivers Saturday and will report to the American Hockey League.
Here are the projected lineups for the Panthers and Red Wings:
Injured: Ed Jovanovski (hip surgery)