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Surging Red Wings play host to surprising Panthers

by Paul Harris

PANTHERS (11-8-7) at RED WINGS (17-6-6)


DETROIT -- The Florida Panthers are the only team to defeat the Detroit Red Wings in regulation in Detroit's past nine games.

The teams play again Friday at Joe Louis Arena, where the Panthers defeated the Red Wings 4-3 on Dec. 2.

"I think we played one of our best games of the season and if we want to win tonight, we're going to have to play that way again," Florida coach Gerard Gallant said.

The Panthers (11-8-7) have been in Detroit for three days since losing 4-2 at the St. Louis Blues on Monday. Instead of flying back to the Miami area and coming back to Detroit, the team flew in directly from St. Louis and set up its base.

"It's definitely weird. You prefer to be home for those three days," Gallant said. "But it doesn't make sense to fly all the way there and then back here."

Detroit, which is 7-1-1 in its past nine games, will be without defenseman Danny DeKeyser, who will miss at least the weekend with an upper-body injury. The Red Wings (17-6-6) recalled defenseman Xavier Ouellet from their American Hockey League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins. Ouellet will replace DeKeyser in the lineup Friday.

Ouellet was called up earlier in the season when defenseman Brendan Smith missed time with a hand infection. He had a goal and an assist in five games and was plus-3.

"I felt good last time I was here, went down and had a couple good games," Ouellet said. "I'm back here tonight. I've got to be consistent and play the same game I did when I was here last time."

Detroit thinks Ouellet has a bright future because of his skating and puck-moving abilities.

"We think he's a real good player," coach Mike Babcock said. "We're going to put him right in the lineup and let him play just because he's played well for us. We need him."

Babcock really likes the way Ouellet thinks on the ice.

"He's just got good hockey sense," Babcock said. "He knows how to play, defends, competes, he's good defensively, he can penalty kill, he can play on the power play.

"I think when you look at him he wouldn't necessarily be a combine player or a scout player; 6-foot-4, 240 (pounds), skate like the wind. He's just a hockey player. I imagine he's getting better each and every day."

This is the first of back-to-back games for both teams. Florida plays at the Buffalo Sabres and Detroit visits the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

Here are the projected lineups:


Jonathan Huberdeau - Nick Bjugstad - Tomas Fleischmann

Sean Bergenheim - Dave Bolland - Brad Boyes

Jussi Jokinen - Vincent Trocheck - Jimmy Hayes

Tomas Kopecky - Derek MacKenzie - Brandon Pirri

Brian Campbell - Aaron Ekblad

Willie Mitchell - Dmitry Kulikov

Dylan Olsen - Erik Gudbranson

Roberto Luongo

Al Montoya

Scratched: Scott Thornton, Shane O'Brien

Injured: Scottie Upshall (lower body), Aleksander Barkov (hand)


Gustav Nyquist - Henrik Zetterberg - Tomas Jurco

Tomas Tatar - Pavel Datsyuk - Darren Helm

Johan Franzen - Riley Sheahan - Stephen Weiss

Drew Miller - Luke Glendening - Joakim Andersson

Jonathan Ericsson - Niklas Kronwall

Kyle Quincey - Brendan Smith

Xavier Ouellet - Jakub Kindl

Scratched: Daniel Cleary, Brian Lashoff

Injured: Justin Abdelkader (shoulder), Danny DeKeyser (upper body)

Status report: Florida recalled O'Brien from the San Antonio Rampage of the AHL in order to have a seventh defenseman for its back-to-back weekend games. O'Brien was a signed after a training camp tryout. "He's played well, he has worked hard. That's why we brought him up," Gallant said. "We need him." … The Red Wings put Abdelkader on injured reserve Thursday, retroactive to Nov. 30, when he was injured against the Vancouver Canucks.

Who's hot: Ekblad has three goals, seven points and is plus-6 in his past five games. … Nyquist had his team-leading 13th goal on Tuesday in Detroit's 2-1 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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