The Detroit Red Wings’ hot start to the season seems long ago as they try to snap a six-game losing streak Saturday night when they visit the Atlantic Division-rival Florida Panthers. The Red Wings won four of their first five games to open 2017-18 and are winless since (0-5-1) after doing just enough to suffer a 3-2 loss at red-hot Tampa Bay on Thursday - the fourth one-goal setback during the streak.
“We aren’t good enough to win games and that’s why we’ve lost six in a row,” Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg told reporters after his team coughed up two third-period goals Thursday. The Red Wings must be stout defensively to break out of their slump against the Panthers, who entered Friday fourth in the league in scoring (3.67 goals per game) after exploding for an 8-3 victory over Anaheim at home Thursday night. “We didn’t have too many shots on net (22), but the ones we had we made them count and had some lucky bounces, too,” Florida right wing Radim Vrbata told reporters after scoring his first three goals of the season. Center Aleksander Barkov, who Panthers coach Bob Boughner called “a beast” Thursday, is starting to warm up with three goals and four assists over the last four contests.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Detroit, FSN Florida
ABOUT THE RED WINGS (4-6-1): Detroit took seven penalties Thursday at Tampa Bay and three were for slashing, including one in the third period on Frans Nielsen that led to the Lightning’s go-ahead goal. “We are putting ourselves at risk for them making that call,” coach Jeff Blashill told the Detroit Free Press. “That is 100 percent on us. We can’t whine about the refs making the penalty calls. We have to make sure we keep our sticks on the ice.” Speedy forward Andreas Athanasiou made his season debut Thursday after a contract holdout and had three shots in 11:38 of ice time.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (4-5-0): Barkov and Vincent Trocheck had three points apiece Thursday to tie Jonathan Huberdeau for the team lead with 10 while 18-year-old rookie forward Owen Tippett scored his first NHL goal in his fourth game. “I was happy for him. He was smiling ear to ear,” Boughner told reporters. “He played really well besides the goal as well, so he’s making a case for himself and it’s nice to see him get rewarded.” Forward Connor Brickley (seven points, plus-6 rating) suffered an upper-body injury in the third period Thursday and Boughner said he is day-to-day.
1. Florida has allowed 10 power-play goals in nine games, but was 3-for-3 on the penalty kill Thursday.
2. Detroit G Jimmy Howard has lost the last two games despite turning aside 66 of the 70 shots he faced.
3. The Panthers had at least a point in all four meetings last season (3-0-1), allowing seven goals combined.
PREDICTION: Panthers 5, Red Wings 4