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Panthers seek first win against Wings in four seasons

by Mike G. Morreale /

PANTHERS (8-9-2) at RED WINGS (10-6-3)

Last 10 -- Florida 6-3-1; Detroit 7-2-1

Season series --
The first and only meeting of the season will give the Panthers an opportunity to notch their first victory over the Wings in four seasons. Detroit scored a 3-2 victory last season and a 5-2 triumph in 2007-08. The Panthers, who didn't face the Wings in 2006-07, scored a 3-2 shootout decision in 2005-06.

Big Story -- How about the play of Detroit right wing Dan Cleary of late? The 11-season veteran has picked up the pace since being put on a line with center Henrik Zetterberg. He had been splitting time with Justin Abdelkader, Kris Draper and Darren Helm. Since being moved to Zetterberg's line with Ville Leino, Cleary has produced 3 goals and 3 assists over his last five games.

The Panthers, meanwhile, have won six of their last nine games -- earning points in all but two of those contests -- after opening the season 2-7-1.

"It's taken some time," Florida forward Dominic Moore said. "As you go you learn, and you try to improve each game. We've got a group that has taken a while to jell, so every game and every period we're just trying to get better."

Team Scope:

Panthers -- Florida coach Peter DeBoer said Detroit native David Booth wasn't a part of the team's recent three-game road trip because of a setback in his recovery from a concussion suffered in Philadelphia on Oct. 24. Booth was cleared to start light workouts but has been instructed to stop. According to DeBoer, Booth will need to go a week without post-concussion symptoms before being cleared to begin skating full-speed again.

"We started to ramp up his workouts last week and had a little setback," DeBoer said. "We're kind of taking our foot off the gas and giving him some time off before we get back at it. We knew this would happen, would be part of the process."

Red Wings -- Despite the fact the Red Wings lost some offense in the off-season -- namely Marian Hossa, Mikael Samuelsson and Jiri Hudler -- and have had several players sidelined by injury this campaign -- namely Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula and Jason Williams -- the club remains the highest scoring team in the Western Conference. The Wings have produced 20 goals over the last four games and have averaged 3.26 goals-per-game this season -- the fourth highest total in the League.

"I think we were always confident in here we were going to score one way or another," defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "We lost a lot of big-name players and a lot of goals, but other players have stepped up and been able to contribute and come up with goals for us."

Who's Hot -- Zetterberg notched the fourth hat trick of his career on Saturday in a 7-4 victory over Anaheim and now has 12 points in his last seven games. Additionally, Kronwall has posted multiple-point games in three of his last four contests -- notching three goals and four assists over that span. Kronwall has 5 goals and 13 points this season.

Injury Report --
For Detroit, Williams (fractured fibula), Filppula (broken wrist) and Franzen (torn left anterior cruciate ligament) and defenseman Andreas Lilja (concussion) are out. The Panthers will be without wings Booth (concussion) and Nick Tarnasky (facial surgery, injured reserve).

Stat Pack --
During its recent run of six wins in eight games, Detroit's specialty teams has been hot. The penalty-killing unit has allowed six goals in the last 28 chances. The power-play, after a 1-for-18 drought, has collected 6 goals with the man advantage in the last 16 opportunities.

Puck Drop --
Look for Panthers goalie Tomas Vokoun to make his fifth straight start. For Detroit, goalie Chris Osgood, who has missed the last four games with the flu but began practicing this week, should get the nod over Jimmy Howard. The rookie Howard went 3-1-0 in Osgood's absence with an admirable 2.25 GAA.

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