The Red Wings head down to sunny South Florida for a matchup with their Atlantic Divison rival Florida Panthers. On the second half of a back-to-back, Detroit is coming off a forgettable 7-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Having to pack everything up and immediately hop on a plane following such a disappointing defeat does not play in the Red Wings favor.

The Panthers are 6-3-4 on the season and currently sit in the second wild card position.

Projected Lines

Detroit Red Wings

Because the team was in Raleigh last night, there was no practice this morning. So we don’t have updated lines but I have to imagine Dennis Cholowski draws into the lineup. The pairing of Joe Hicketts and Mike Green had a brutal outing on Friday, so that might open up a spot for Cholowski. The 21-year-old has been a healthy scratch the last two games.

Looking at the lines themselves, it will be interesting to see if Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha can pick up where they left off. The two had a strong performance versus the Canes, giving Detroit a much needed scoring line.

Florida Panthers

MacKenzie Weegar
Aaron Ekblad
Riley Stillman
Anton Stralman
Keith Yandle
Josh Brown

Its been an up and down start for the Panthers. A handful of new faces are still finding their way, but there is no doubt they have stars up front. Aleksander Barkov is a superstar pivot, and wingers Jonathan Huberdeau, Mike Hoffman, and Evgenii Dadonov make for a lethal core. The early returns of recent free agent signing Brian Boyle have been well, as the veteran center has put up 3 points in 5 games.

On defense, MacKenzie Weeger and Aaron Ekblad have emerged as one of the better top pairs in the NHL. Those two will be relied upon heavily by head coach Joel Quenneville, as the bottom-4 is questionable. Riley Stillman and Josh Brown are both inexperienced blue-liners, filling in for the injured Mike Matheson.

Three Thoughts

1.) Bobrovsky in the Cage

The Panthers big splash of the offseason was inking goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to a long-term deal in free agency. The two time Vezina trophy winner has not gotten off to the best start.

In 10 starts, Bobrovsky currently sports a .873 save percentage. Not ideal, considering the large sum of money they shelled out for his services. If Detroit can get rubber on net consistently they might be able to squeak a few by the Russian netmider while he still tries to find his groove.

2.) Containing the Top Line

The top line of Barkov, Huberdeau, and Dadonov have been lighting up the score sheet all season. Their style of play complements each other so well, with Barkov playing the plamaker role and the latter two being the goal scorers. Barkov only has one goal on the season, but also has 14 assists in 13 games. Meanwhile, Huberdeau has put up an impressive 7 goals.

Detroit’s defense will have a bust night trying to contain the trio. They will be the main catalyst of Florida’s offense tonight, especially since second line center Vincent Trocheck is sidelined with injury.

3.) Growing Second Line Chemistry

Its been the story all season — the Red Wings can’t score goals. The top line was the only consistent offensive line, but that started to die down during the recent eight game losing streak. Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi are still on the first line, now joined by Darren Helm, and haven’t been able to find the same level of play that they were on to start the season.

Anthony Mantha has been moved down to the second line to spark some more offense. After a few failed attempts of mixing up the lines, Jeff Blashill may have found a combination that works. The second line of Athanasiou, Mantha, and Valtteri Filppula are starting to build some chemistry, a great sign moving forward. Athanasiou, in particular, is looking more and more like his old self.