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To record the longest road winning streak in franchise history, the Florida Panthers must beat the best team in hockey - in a city where they have not won in more than a decade.
The Panthers will be counting on the red-hot Tomas Vokoun on Saturday to help them knock off the Detroit Red Wings, who are looking to bounce back from their first loss in nearly three weeks.
A 1-0 victory at St. Louis on Thursday, behind Vokoun's 33 saves, in the opener of a four-game road trip gave Florida (14-15-2) its fourth straight win away from home. That matched the team record accomplished three times previously, most recently in February 2003.
"If we are going to start to climb in the standings we need to start winning on the road consistently," Vokoun told the Panthers' official Web site. "St. Louis was playing well at home and we matched their energy and played a solid game for 60 minutes. That is the same type of game we need to play on Saturday in Detroit."
To win a fifth straight road game, the Panthers must beat a Detroit team that has the best home record in the NHL at 13-2-1. Overall, the Red Wings (22-6-3) are four points better than any other team in the league and nine ahead of the next-best team in the Western Conference.
Florida's lone victory in eight all-time visits to Detroit came on Dec. 1, 1996. The teams have played just five times at Joe Louis Arena since that game.
The Panthers did win the most recent meeting, 3-2 on Dec. 15, 2005, but that is one of just three victories in 18 games all-time against the Red Wings.
Vokoun has won just two of his last 10 starts versus Detroit, but enters this matchup having allowed only one goal over his last three starts. The win in St. Louis was his second shutout in seven days, and came two nights after a 2-1 shootout loss to Calgary.
Not including that shootout, Vokoun has let only one of the last 93 shots he's faced to get past him.
"Tomas has been outstanding," Panthers coach Jacques Martin said. "He gives us a chance to win every night. He's a fiery competitor who does not like to lose. He seemed to get better as (Thursday's) game progressed, and our guys seem to feed off his confidence."
Detroit's confidence did not take too much of a hit despite losing Thursday, falling 4-3 in a shootout against Edmonton as its seven-game winning streak came to an end.
It was the Red Wings' first defeat since a Nov. 24 shootout loss at Columbus, but they have not lost in regulation in nine straight games. They overcame a pair of one-goal deficits to force overtime on Thursday.
"We didn't think we were on it as good as we could be from start to finish," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said. "We still controlled a lot of the game. We made a couple mistakes and they capitalized. The way the game was going, it was good to battle back and get a point out of it."
While the Red Wings have given up just two power-play goals in their opponents' last 31 chances, Florida has not allowed one in 10 short-handed situations over the last three games.
Panthers leading scorer Olli Jokinen failed to score for a fourth straight game Thursday.
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