PANTHERS (37-25-16) at RED WINGS (46-27-5)
TV: NHLN-US (HD),FS-F (HD),FS-D (HD)
Last 10: Florida 5-2-3; Detroit 2-6-2.
Season Series: This will be the only meeting of the season between the teams from opposite conferences. Detroit won the last game 4-3 on Feb. 18 last season in Sunrise, Fla. The Red Wings also hold the edge in the all-time series with a 13-2-2 mark plus five ties prior to the inclusion of the shootout.
Big Story: The Red Wings have already clinched a spot in the Western Conference playoffs, but they also have something to play for in this game against the Panthers – who are looking to secure their first post-season berth since 2000. The Wings got bumped out of the fourth spot in the West standings by the new fourth-place team on Friday night, Nashville, and that very well could determine home-ice advantage in a potential Stanley Cup Playoffs quarterfinal series between the Wings and Preds. If Detroit wants to leapfrog Nashville back into the fourth spot, the Red Wings need the two points on Sunday against their visitors from the Eastern Conference. Speaking of which, the Panthers have started to stumble to the finish line in their playoff quest. They're coming off back-to-back losses to Minnesota and Columbus -- teams that are both out of the postseason forecast -- and come into the Motor City clinging to the lead in the Southeast Division by a thin margin.
Panthers: After a stunning defeat in Minnesota, in which the Wild tied the game with 30 seconds left in regulation and then won in overtime, Florida then went to Columbus on Friday night and got outplayed in a 4-1 loss at Nationwide Arena. Tomas Kopecky scored the lone goal for the Panthers, but it came with just 7:57 left in regulation and merely staved off a shutout by Blue Jackets rookie goalie Allen York. Florida has just four games left, with Sunday's capping a four-game road trip that's seen the Panthers gain tally just three of six possible points in the first three contests. However, this is hardly the time to start squeezing their sticks even tighter because of nerves.
"You got to trust each other and play," said defenseman Brian Campbell, who helped the Chicago Blackhawks win the 2010 Stanley Cup. "You can't play scared. Nobody's a good player playing that way. We got four games left to pour it on. Everybody knows what's at stake."
Red Wings: Detroit's two wins in the past 10 games are the worst tally in the NHL and the Red Wings feel like that must change in the four games left on their schedule. The Wings felt better overall about their latest effort on Friday night against Nashville at home, but the end result was still a 4-1 loss to a team they could very well face in the opening round of the playoffs. Jimmy Howard
was able to get back in goal for the first time since missing four games with a groin injury and played solidly, but he’s just one of a few Wings just getting back into games after extensive injury absences. Is there time for the recently-healed to get themselves back into top form?
"It's going to be important that everybody gets up to game speed, get our legs going and we start playing our system the way we want to play it,” said Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom
, who's still dealing with some ankle soreness from a deep bone bruise that kept him out for a career-high 11 straight games. "We need to start playing better as a whole, feeling better about ourselves and paying attention to details to our game."
Who's Hot: Tomas Fleischmann has three goals and three assists in the past six games for the Panthers; Jiri Hudler
has three goals and three assists in his last six games for Detroit, including goals in three of the last four.
Injury Report: Jack Skille (shoulder) and Matt Bradley (concussion) are sidelined for the Panthers; Detroit’s Darren Helm
is out at least a couple more weeks recovering from an MCL sprain in his knee, goalie Joey MacDonald
(back) is likely out until the playoffs if not the rest of the season while forward Patrick Eaves
(concussion) is out indefinitely on injured reserve.
Stat Pack: Red Wings forward Johan Franzen
has 10 game-winning goals and he needs one more in the last four games of the regular season to tie him with Sergei Fedorov with the most in one season by a Detroit player.
Puck Drop: Near the end of the first period against Nashville on Friday night, it looked like Detroit’s Cory Emmerton
got his stick caught in the net. It was actually tangled up in Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard
's right pad.
"I didn't know and I yanked on it and actually took his feet out from under him,” Emmerton said. “That's why I let it go. I was like, 'Jimmy! My stick!' and he was like, 'It's stuck!' yelling at me. I figured they would've blown it down. The ref saw it. Actually, I skated back and saw the stick was still in there and I was like, 'Oh my God ... ' but then he got it out."