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Red Wings get two players back vs. Panthers

by Adam Kimelman

RED WINGS (17-13-9) at PANTHERS (14-19-5)


Last 10: Detroit 3-5-2; Florida 7-3-0

Season series: The Florida Panthers swept a home-and-home set from the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 7 and 10, their first two games as divisional opponents. They'll play twice more after their game Saturday.

Big story: The Red Wings will be boosted by the return of their captain, Henrik Zetterberg, who will play for the first time since Dec. 1. He's been out due to a herniated disc in his back.

The Red Wings went 3-6-2 without Zetterberg, who still leads the team in scoring with 30 points in 28 games.

"Good and ready to play [Saturday]," Zetterberg told reporters after practice Friday. "If nothing happens from now until 7 [p.m. Saturday] I will be in. It's kind of been the same for a week, I guess. The good thing is I've been doing more and more stuff and it hasn't gotten worse. It's time to play again.

"It's been tough. Sometimes it's been really good and sometimes it hasn't been that good. But that's how it is sometimes."

Team Scope:

Red Wings: Zetterberg won't be the only injured Red Wings player coming back Saturday.

Forward Justin Abdelkader, who has missed the past five games with a concussion, will return. Forward Darren Helm, who last played Dec. 4 due to a shoulder injury, isn't ready yet.

Goalie Jimmy Howard, who will miss his eighth straight game Saturday with a sprained knee sustained Dec. 10, also skated Friday and is aiming to return Monday against the Nashville Predators.

"I'm still hoping to play in Nashville," Howard said. "That's been the goal here all along and I don't think anything's changed. The first real test was [Friday] with a full practice and it felt pretty good out there.

"I think I need a couple more practices. It's still a little stiff for not using it for so long. That's going to happen with any injury. I just need to get the mobility back."

Panthers: It's been a pretty simple equation for the Florida Panthers: Better defense and goaltending equals more wins.

In their past seven games the Panthers are 5-2-0. In those five wins Florida allowed a total of eight goals; in the two losses they allowed 11.

"We don't want to give up more than two goals," Panthers interim coach Peter Horachek told the Miami Herald. "In the games in which we were successful they were two or less. We were playing a good defensive game. … When you have players who can make offense out of nothing you have to be there as a group, five guys in every zone."

That run came with Scott Clemmensen in goal; Tim Thomas has been activated from injured reserve, but Clemmensen will start Saturday.

Who's hot: Red Wings forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Daniel Alfredsson have combined for three goals and five assists in Detroit's past three games. … Panthers center Aleksander Barkov has four points in his past four games after totaling four points in his previous 13 games.

Injury report: The Red Wings won't have Helm, forwards Stephen Weiss (sports hernia), Johan Franzen (head) and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (ribs). … The Panthers are missing defensemen Ed Jovanovski (hip) and Erik Gudbranson (broken orbital bone) and forwards Jesse Winchester (hand) and Scottie Upshall (upper body).


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