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RED WINGS (17-13-9) at PANTHERS (14-19-5)
TV: FS-D, FS-F
Last 10: Detroit 3-5-2; Florida 7-3-0
Season series: The Florida Panthers swept a home-and-home set from the Red Wings on Dec. 7 and 10, their first two games as divisional opponents. They'll play twice more after their game Saturday.
Big story: The Red Wings will be boosted by the return of their captain, Henrik Zetterberg, who will play for the first time since Dec. 1 due to a herniated disc in his back.
The Red Wings went 3-6-2 without Zetterberg. Despite his long absence, he still leads the Red Wings in scoring with 30 points in 28 games.
"Good and ready to play [Saturday]," Zetterberg told reporters after practice Friday. "If nothing happens from now until 7 [p.m. Saturday] I will be in. It's kind of been the same for a week, I guess. The good thing is I've been doing more and more stuff and it hasn't gotten worse. It's time to play again.
"It's been tough. Sometimes it's been really good and sometimes it hasn't been that good. But that's how it is sometimes."
Red Wings: Zetterberg might not be the only injured Red Wings player that could come back Saturday, or soon after.
Forward Justin Abdelkader, who has missed the past five games with a concussion, could be an option for Saturday. Forward Darren Helm, who last played Dec. 4 due to a shoulder injury, is also possible.
"Abdelkader's another guy too that I think might be available," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said Friday. "We'll know more after the morning skate. … I hear there's a sighting of Darren Helm too. I don't know when these guys are coming or not coming. We'll know more after the morning skate."
Goalie Jimmy Howard, who will miss his eighth straight game Saturday with a sprained knee sustained Dec. 10, also skated Friday and is aiming to return Monday against the Nashville Predators.
"I'm still hoping to play in Nashville," Howard said. "That's been the goal here all along and I don't think anything's changed. The first real test was [Friday] with a full practice and it felt pretty good out there.
"I think I need a couple more practices. It's still a little stiff for not using it for so long. That's going to happen with any injury. I just need to get the mobility back."
Panthers: It's been a pretty simple equation for the Florida Panthers: Better defense and goaltending equals more wins.
In their past seven games the Panthers are 5-2-0. In those five wins Florida allowed a total of eight goals; in the two losses they allowed 11.
"We don't want to give up more than two goals," Panthers interim coach Peter Horachek told the Miami Herald. "In the games in which we were successful they were two or less. We were playing a good defensive game. … When you have players who can make offense out of nothing you have to be there as a group, five guys in every zone."
That run came with Scott Clemmensen in goal; they expect to have Tim Thomas back in net Saturday.
Who's hot: Red Wings forwards Pavel Datsyuk and Daniel Alfredsson have combined for three goals and five assists in Detroit's past three games. … Panthers center Aleksander Barkov has four points in his past four games after totaling four points in his previous 13 games.
Injury report: Besides Howard, the Red Wings won't have forwards Stephen Weiss (sports hernia), Johan Franzen (concussion) and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (ribs). Abdelkader, Helm and goaltender Jonas Gustavsson (groin) are questionable. … The Panthers are missing defensemen Ed Jovanovski (hip) and Erik Gudbranson (broken orbital bone) and forwards Jesse Winchester (hand) and Scottie Upshall (upper body).
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