Detroit Red Wings 17-13-9, 43 pts (4th in Atlantic) at Florida Panthers 14-19-5, 33 pts (7th in Atlantic)
The Florida Panthers will be back in action tonight after a four day Christmas break when they take on the Detroit Red Wings at 7 p.m. ET at BB&T Center.
The Panthers will look to make it three straight wins against the Detroit Red Wings. Florida topped Detroit in the teams’ two previous meetings, a 2-1 win on December 7, in Detroit and a 3-2 shootout win at home on December 10.
The Red Wings are currently tied with Toronto for the Eastern Conference’s two wild card spots. With 43 points, they have a 10-point cushion over the Panthers. The Winter Classic bound Wings have struggled a bit in December compiling a 4-6-2 record while dealing with a number of injuries. The Wings tonight will be minus Jimmy Howard, Stephen Weiss, Johan Franzen and Jonathan Ericsson. Team captain Henrik Zetterberg will be back in the lineup for the first time since December 1. He has been recovering from a herniated disc in his back. Forwards Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm could also return to the lineup tonight in South Florida.
The Panthers are dealing with some injuries of their own. Florida will be without Jesse Winchester, Scottie Upshall and Erik Gudbranson tonight against Detroit. The Panthers called up D Alex Petrovic and F Drew Shore yesterday to fill out the lineup. The Panthers will go with Scott Clemmensen in net tonight despite the return of Tim Thomas from IR. Thomas is 2-0 against the Wings this season but it looks like Florida will give him a couple more days to fully recover from the lower-body injury that has kept him out since December 10.
Tonights game is the second of a five game home stand for the Panthers. They are coming off a 6-1 home loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday. The Red Wings are playing their second-to-last game before the Winter Classic against the Toronto Maple Leafs on January 1st. Detroit takes on the Predators on Monday in Nashville prior to the big game at the Big House on Wednesday. This will be the last game the Panthers play against the Wings/Maple Leafs during HBO’s filming of 24/7: Road To The Winter Classic. Florida is 3-0 so far on the show.