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Red Wings go for sweep in Florida

by John Kreiser /
RED WINGS (35-16-6) at PANTHERS (24-25-7)

TV -- FS-Detroit (HD); FS-Florida (HD)

Last 10 -- Detroit 6-4-0; Florida 3-5-2

Season series -- It's the only meeting of the season between the Panthers and Red Wings, who haven't visited South Florida since winning 3-2 on Nov. 14, 2008. The teams haven't played anywhere since the Panthers won 2-1 in overtime at Detroit on Nov. 20, 2009.

Big story -- The Wings are coming off an emotional 6-2 win at Tampa Bay on Thursday, a game that marked the first time they'd ever played against a team that had Steve Yzerman (now the Lightning GM) on the other side. That game drew a large gathering of Wings fans to the St. Pete Times Forum -- and Detroit's first trip to Sunrise in more than two years figures to do the same. The up-and-down Panthers continue to struggle at home -- they spotted Philadelphia a 3-0 lead on Wednesday, rallied within 3-2 but allowed an empty-netter in a 4-2 loss.

Team Scope:

Red Wings -- The Wings have gone from struggling to score to rolling over opponents. They've scored 16 times while winning their last three games, including the win at Tampa on Thursday.

Part of that has been the return to form of center Pavel Datsyuk, who missed 19 games with a broken hand. He has 4 goals and 7 points in the five games since his return, including a pair of goals in the win at Tampa Bay.

Panthers -- Time is starting to run out on the Panthers, who need a hot streak to avoid falling out of the playoff race in the East. Florida hasn't been able to capitalize on its current homestand, losing again on Tuesday when a slow start against Philadelphia left the Panthers with too big a hole to climb out of. They are 1-3-0 as they enter the finale of a five-game homestand and have dropped six of their last seven at the BankAtlantic Center.

"If we had played a solid first, it might have been a different game," forward Chris Higgins said. "We didn't show up with our sharpest game in the first and it cost us."

Who's hot -- Henrik Zetterberg, the Wings' leading scorer, had a pair of assists against the Lightning and has 7 points during a four-game points streak. Jimmy Howard has stopped 86 of 91 shots during the three-game winning streak. … Florida defenseman Dennis Wideman has 2 goals and 5 points in the Panthers' last five games.

Injury report -- Detroit is still without forwards Valtteri Filppula (knee) and Mike Modano (wrist) and goalie Chris Osgood (sports hernia surgery), but got defenseman Brad Stuart back from a broken jaw on Thursday. … Florida could get captain Bryan McCabe back from a broken jaw. Defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (ankle) isn't likely to play until next week. Forward Steve Bernier missed Wednesday's game with flu-like symptoms.

Stat pack -- The Wings have gotten points in their last 16 meetings with the Panthers. Detroit is 9-0-5-2 since Dec. 1, 1996. Detroit is 18-8-2 on the road this season, has won four of its last five and 10 of 14 its last 14 away from Detroit.

Puck drop -- Don't be surprised if there are a lot of red-and-white jerseys at the BankAtlantic Center. The Wings had plenty of fans in Tampa on Thursday and figure to do the same in South Florida, where there are usually tickets available.

"That might have been the biggest I've ever seen in all the years I've been here," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said of the contingent of Wings fans at the St. Pete Times Forum. "On the road we've had some unbelievable crowds, but tonight, that was a good crowd."

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