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GAME: Florida Panthers (10-14-6-1) at Detroit Red Wings (18-10-3-1).TIME: Monday, 7:30 p.m. EST.
If it weren't for Pavel Datsyuk, the injury-plagued Detroit Red Wings probably would not be leading the Western Conference.
Datsyuk, the NHL scoring leader, and the Red Wings look to continue their surge when the Florida Panthers visit Joe Louis Arena.
Despite having nine regular players injured, Detroit has gone 7-1-2 over its last 10, scoring 4.6 goals per game. The Red Wings' 40 points put them at the top of the West, one point ahead of Central Division rival St. Louis.
Possibly the biggest key to the team's success has been Datsyuk, whose 21 points during the last 10 games has made him the hottest player in the league. Datsyuk had a pair of goals and two assists in Saturday's 5-1 victory over the Washington Capitals.
"It's not by accident," teammate Brett Hull said. "He's a wonderful, wonderful player."
The 25-year-old Russian has scored 16 points in the first seven games of December, including his 17th goal that capped the scoring on Saturday and pushed him into the league lead with 37 points.
Datsyuk already has shattered his previous career high of 12 goals and is close to breaking his career best of 51 points, established last season.
"I told him, `Don't get satisfied. Keep working. You could lead this league in scoring,"' said Hull, who is one point shy of 1,300 for his NHL career.
"I really appreciate (Hull's) support," Datsyuk said. "I'm a young player, and I need the help."
Curtis Joseph made 18 saves Saturday in his third straight start for the Red Wings. He was recalled from the minors last week with starter Dominik Hasek bothered by a groin injury and backup Manny Legace hampered by a sore knee.
Both Legace -- the backup in Saturday's win -- and Hasek are listed as day-to-day.
The Panthers head to Detroit with a 10-game winless streak in this series, having gone 0-5-5 against the Red Wings since Dec. 1, 1996.
Florida, however, is unbeaten in its last three games (1-0-2) after a 2-2 tie at Nashville on Saturday.
"We had a really gritty performance," Panthers coach Rick Dudley said.
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