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At the Rink blog

Red Wings' Weiss makes initial return to Florida

Tuesday, 12.10.2013 / 2:53 PM

By Alain Poupart - NHL.com Correspondent / 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

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2013-2014 At the Rink Blog
Red Wings' Weiss makes initial return to Florida

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Detroit center Stephen Weiss didn't try to downplay the significance of his return to South Florida.

The Florida Panthers' all-time leader in games played and assists will face his former team for a second consecutive game Tuesday night, but this one will be his first game back at BB&T Center, where he played the past decade.

"First time back, real excited to get the game underway," Weiss said after the Red Wings' morning skate. "The last few days I've been thinking about it quite a bit. I'm just real excited to start.

"It felt strange for sure [walking into the arena]. I really didn't know which way to come in the building, didn't know really where to go when we got in. A different feeling for sure coming to the rink. Just excited to get the game underway, but it certainly feels a little bit strange being on the other side."

After being the Panthers' first-round pick (No. 4) in the 2001 NHL Draft, Weiss spent his first 11 seasons in Florida and led the team in scoring three times. He signed a five-year, $24.5 million contract with the Red Wings in the offseason, but so far has only two goals and two assists in 25 games.

"I don't think it's where it needs to be, that's for sure," Weiss said of his play. "I haven't played to my potential and I need to figure out the cause of that. We're starting to narrow that down. Now it's up to me to go out and be loose and play."

Weiss joined the Red Wings after his 2013 season was cut short by a wrist injury that required surgery. He was held off the score sheet in 15:52 of ice time Saturday when the Panthers beat the Red Wings 2-1 at Joe Louis Arena.

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said Weiss' biggest problem has been putting too much pressure on himself.

"The big part is, how do you handle that?" Babcock said. "He's come to a new spot, it hasn't gone like he'd like. He got injured in camp, then injured again. So now, how do you get your confidence back? To me, you just get to work and you be mentally tough. You talk to people and get people to help you. The first thing to overcome in anything is when you admit to yourself that it isn't going very good. He's done all those things, so we just feel that he's going to start playing better and better."

With the Red Wings off since the game Saturday, Weiss had dinner Monday night with former teammate Shawn Matthias, who lived with him for a couple of years at the start of Matthias' NHL career.

"It's special," Matthias said of Weiss' return to South Florida. "He came over for dinner last night and we talked about it a bit. It means a lot to him and he's excited for the game. He's going to push a little extra. He wants to have a big night here. I'm happy for him, but at the same time I don't want him to have too big of a night."

Weiss will be skating on a line with Justin Abdelkader and Daniel Alfredsson, who had his own special return to Ottawa back on Dec. 1.

Jimmy Howard will be back in net for the Red Wings after Jonas Gustavsson started back-to-back games against the New Jersey Devils and Panthers. The loss against Florida was his first in regulation this season after an 8-0-1 start.

Babcock said Gustavsson developed a "tight hip flexor" after the Panthers game, but indicated the injury wasn't serious.

For the Panthers, veteran Tim Thomas was the first goalie off the ice and he will make his 15th start in 16 games. He had a streak of 14 consecutive starts end Sunday when Scott Clemmensen got the nod against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Here are the projected lineups for the Red Wings and Panthers:

RED WINGS

Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi

Justin Abdelkader - Stephen Weiss - Daniel Alfredsson

Gustav Nyquist - Joakim Andersson - Tomas Tatar

Drew Miller - Cory Emmerton - Daniel Cleary

Niklas Kronwall - Jonathan Ericsson

Kyle Quincey - Brendan Smith

Jakub Kindl - Brian Lashoff

Jimmy Howard

Jonas Gustavsson

Scratched: Mikael Samuelsson

Injured: Henrik Zetterberg (back), Darren Helm (groin, shoulder), Danny DeKeyser (shoulder)

PANTHERS

Jonathan Huberdeau - Nick Bjugstad - Scottie Upshall

Sean Bergenheim - Aleksander Barkov - Jimmy Hayes

Tomas Fleischmann - Marcel Goc - Tomas Kopecky

Brad Boyes - Shawn Matthias - Jesse Winchester

Brian Campbell - Tom Gilbert

Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver

Dylan Olsen - Erik Gudbranson

Tim Thomas

Scott Clemmensen

Scratched: Scott Gomez, Mike Mottau, Krys Barch

Injured: Ed Jovanovski (lower body)

Notes: Boyes will be back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch in the 6-2 loss to the Blackhawks on Sunday.

Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres