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Dec. 9: Look Ahead in Hockeytown

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings and Florida Panthers will face-off for the second time in three days in Sunrise, Fla. on Tuesday. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Detroit Red Wings)

DETROIT – Inconsistency hit a new crescendo over the weekend for the Red Wings, who are battling a bit of a personality disorder.

The owners of the best road record in the Eastern Conference, the Wings continue to struggle at Joe Louis Arena where they have a 5-6-6 record following Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Florida.

Since the start of November, the Wings are 2-4-4 at home; however, they are 6-1-1 on the road during the same stretch.

“We’re not very happy with our game,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said following Saturday’s loss. “We have to look ahead and stay positive. The execution level, just how we played, just wasn’t good enough.”

The Red Wings will play four games this week, starting with a pair of road games in the Sunshine State at Florida on Tuesday and Tampa Bay on Thursday. Detroit finishes the week with back to back home games against Pittsburgh and the Lightning on Saturday and Sunday.

The Florida trip is the Wings’ first since February 2011 where they have compiled a 20-5-3-1 (W-L-T-OTL) all-time against the Panthers and Lightning.

Forward Daniel Cleary called the Wings’ home record “terrible” and said the deviation between home and away has been the most frustrating part of the season.

“We have to find a way to keep things going and we just didn’t play well enough (Saturday),” Cleary said. “Mentally, we’re just not getting through it.”

The Red Wings played the last three games without Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, the team’s top offensive contributors. However, Datsyuk, who hasn’t played since Nov. 23, is expected back Tuesday.

“Hank and Pav are all over the ice. We don’t have them, this is what have right now,” Kronwall said. “We’re a better team than what we showed. We have to find ways to win games regardless if they’re in or not. Every team goes through injuries and right now that bug has hit us a bit. Every team goes through it we just have to find a way through it.”

With that, here’s a look ahead to this week in Hockeytown:

Tim Thomas
Tim Thomas
Goalie  - FLA
Record: 8-10-1
GAA: 2.81 | Sv%: .908
TUESDAY – at FLORIDA (9-16-5): This is the 25th meeting between the two clubs, with Florida posting a 4-11-5-3 mark against the Red Wings. The two teams meet again three more times this season, Dec. 28 and Feb. 6 in southern Florida, and Jan. 26 at Joe Louis Arena. … The Panthers’ defense combined for a total of seven points in a 5-2 victory over Winnipeg last Thursday. Erik Gudbranson registered a goal and an assist and now has four points in his last five games. Defensemen Dylan Olsen scored his first NHL goal and added an assist, while Mike Weaver, Dmitry Kulikov and Tom Gilbert all recorded assists in the win. … The Panthers have scored at least one goal in the third period in 21 of their 30 games, including Jonathan Huberdeau’s game-winner last Saturday against the Red Wings. The Cats have outscored their opponents 32-28 in the final frame. Florida has scored at least one third-period goal in 14 of their last 17 games. Florida has played in 15 one-goal games this season and have come from behind in 10 of its last 22 games played to at least tie the game in the third period.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Tim Thomas, the Panthers’ 39-year-old goaltender, is well traveled, having played in six different professional leagues around the world, including one season with the defunct Detroit Vipers of the former International Hockey League. Last week, the Davison, Michigan, native recorded his 11,000th career NHL save, and he’s currently ranked No. 14th among active league goaltenders with 11,024 saves. He also sits three games shy of 400 games-played for his nine-season NHL career.

Ben Bishop
Ben Bishop
Goalie  - TBL
Record: 15-5-1
GAA: 1.98 | Sv%: .934
THURSDAY – at TAMPA BAY (17-10-2): This is the second game between these two squads, and the first of the season at the St. Pete Times Forum. Last month, the Lightning got goals from Ryan Malone, Steven Stamkos and Teddy Purcell (in overtime) to hand the Red Wings a 3-2 defeat at The Joe. Two nights later, Stamkos suffered a fractured right tibia. The Lightning could have as many as seven players missing time this week with injuries to Stamkos, Malone, Keith Aulie, Tom Pyatt, Brian Lee, P.C. Labrie and Victor Hedman. … .Over the Lightning's past seven games, they have allowed just 10 goals against. They rank second in the NHL with 54 home goals this season and their 11 home victories ranks third in the Eastern Conference. … Valtteri Filppula scored his 10th goal of the season Thursday against Ottawa, surpassing his total of nine goals last season when he played for the Red Wings.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Goalie Ben Bishop made 33 saves for his 15th win of the season last Thursday. He has made 157 saves on 162 shots faced over the last five games (.969 save percentage). He’s a big reason why the Lightning are 11-3-0 at home, despite a number of injuries. Bishop has registered a 15-5-1 record in 22 starts and ranks fourth in the league for wins. He’s also seventh in the NHL with a 1.98 goals-against average and tied for fourth with a .934 save percentage. Bishop has won eight of his past 13 starts and has been one of the game's first three stars in eight of his past 13 games. He’s allowed more than two goals in a game only four times this season.

Sidney Crosby
Center  - PIT
Goals: 15 | Assists: 27 | Pts: 42
Shots: 106 | +/-: 2
SATURDAY – vs. PITTSBURGH (20-10-1): The Red Wings get a look at the Eastern Conference leading Penguins, who are winners of five of their last six, despite a rash of injuries. Evgeni Malkin –the NHL’s top scorer in November – missed his first game of the season against San Jose on Thursday and is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Pittsburgh is also without Pascal Dupuis (lower-body) and Andrew Ebbett (broken ankle), which landed him landing on IR. Through the first 31 games, the Penguins have lost more 135 man-games – an average of 4.4 per game, which is up significantly over last year’s total of 82 man-games lost (1.7 avg.). … Still, Pittsburgh is 16-2-0 when it scores first, and 10-1-0 when taking a lead into the second period. … For the second straight month, the Red Wings will face the league’s top-rated power play. Last month, Washington came to The Joe with the No. 1 PP. The Penguins enter this week as top dogs with a power play clicking along at 26.6 percent (29-of-109). Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby have been the catalysts on the Penguins’ special teams, collecting eight and five PPGs, respectively. … Last Thursday, Marc-Andre Fleury made a season-high 44 saves against San Jose, which was three shy of his career-high established in 2008. … Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser is eligible to come off of long-term injured reserve, however, it’s unlikely he’ll be ready to jump back in the lineup against Pittsburgh.

PLAYER TO WATCH: NHL scoring leader Sidney Crosby is on another roll, producing at least one point in nine of his last 11 games, including six multi-point efforts, for a total of six goals and 11 assists, which is a 1.54 points per game average. The Pens’ captain has been even better over his past six games, registering 11 points and four multiple-point games. Last week, Crosby played in career game No. 500, picking up three assists in a 5-1 win over the Sharks. Crosby has made a habit out of big performances in games-played milestones, picking up multiple points in his 100th (1G-1A); 200th (2A); 300th (2G) and 400th (1G-1A) games. … He reached the 700-points plateau in his 497th NHL game, becoming the fastest active player to do so. In has produced two goals and five points in six career regular-season games against the Red Wings.

Martin St. Louis
Martin St. Louis
Right Wing  - TBL
Goals: 12 | Assists: 15 | Pts: 27
Shots: 70 | +/-: 5
SUNDAY – vs. TAMPA BAY (17-10-2): This is the third of five meetings between these new Atlantic Division rivals, and the third game at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit will complete its first of two back to back home games this season. They will host Colorado and New Jersey on March 6-7. … The Bolts penalty kill unit has been impressive over their past 24 games, killing off 68 of their past 76 penalties – including 4-for-4 vs. the Red Wings on Nov. 9 – during that stretch. The Lightning's penalty kill unit started the season allowing seven PPGs in 22 attempts through their first five games, but have bounced back since, surrendering seven PPGs over their past 20 games. The Lightning now own the league's seventh best penalty kill at 85.2 percent.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Martin St. Louis scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner against the Senators last Thursday. He’s now recorded 10 goals at home, ranking him tied for third (Stamkos and Ryan Getzlaf) in the league in that category....The Lightning captain leads the team in points (27). He also played in his 1,000th career NHL game on Nov. 19 at Los Angeles, becoming the 286th NHL player to reach the milestone. Martin St. Louis is in the Top 100 of the league's all-time points list with 939 career points, which ranks him at No. 90. … St. Louis ranks 11th among league forwards in average TOI per game (21:03).

Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose

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