The Florida Panthers find themselves with a second consecutive divisional road test tonight, this time against the Detroit Red Wings.
Detroit has been one of the NHL’s biggest surprises, starting the season with the third-best record in the Eastern Conference through its first 10 games.
After dropping a point against the Boston Bruins despite taking a 2-0 lead, this game is all the more important for Florida.
Even in November.
“Those games are huge,” Kevin Stenlund said. “Obviously, when we win, they lose and these teams are fun to play against.”
A powerful top line and an efficient power play have played a big role in the Red Wings’ early success.
Alex DeBrincat has led the way for the Red Wings, leading the league in goals with nine and adding four assists.
His shooting efficiency at 28.1 percent is nearly 10 percent higher than his career-high.
Five of his nine goals have come on the power play to spark the league’s fourth-most efficient unit at 32.4 percent.
“They can score goals,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.
“They’re at four a game. They’ve had big stretches. Their power play’s going. I think they’ve got 12 [goals] on their power play. A little more of a dynamic team than in the past. They worked hard to build in a talent base and then brought in some really skilled players to maximize some of the other really good players they have here.”
Detroit’s power play will prove to be a big test for Florida’s foundering power play.
Entering Thursday’s game, the Panthers sit in last place in penalty kill percentage at 67.9.
But they have not allowed a power play goal in the past two games, killing off the lone penalties they took in each of them.
“They bring a lot of pressure,” Stenlund said of Detroit’s power play. “It is hard to play good passes and good shots with a lot of pressure, so we have to stay on their top players.”
Sasha Barkov will break the Panthers’ franchise record for games played in Thursday night’s game against Detroit.
It will be game No. 672 for him, which puts Barkov ahead of Jonathan Huberdeau for the all-time record.
“He’s huge,” Anton Lundell said of Barkov’s importance to South Florida and his home country of Finland.
“He’s probably one of the most famous hockey players, for sure. Every kid growing up is looking up to him — his shootout moves, and highlight plays — including me growing up. He’s just like a ‘Wow!’ player. He always comes up with something you don’t see often.
“To be close to him and see him in every practice and game, you still see stuff you haven’t seen.”
— Sam Bennett will be out of the lineup with a lower-body injury sustained in Monday’s overtime loss in Boston.
William Lockwood will take his place in the lineup while Rasmus Asplund was called up from AHL Charlotte just in case, Asplund will be scratched tonight,
Lundell will make the jump to the second line to play with Matthew Tkachuk and Carter Verhaeghe.
“I’m just trying to do my best and help them,” Lundell. “I’m just trying to do everything I can to give them pucks and make our line a good line today.”
— Evan Rodrigues (undisclosed) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (concussion) will both be in the lineup for the Panthers.
Rodrigues missed practice on Wednesday with what Maurice called a “minor issue” while Ekman-Larsson left Monday’s game at 9:28 of the third period after taking a hit to the head from Charlie McAvoy.
— The starting goalies for tonight: Sergei Bobrovsky and James Reimer.
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS @ DETROIT RED WINGS
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
- Streaming/TV: Bally Sports Florida/ESPN+
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
- Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL/Panthers App
- DraftKings odds — Panthers Favored: Money Line (-120); Puck line (-1.5, +205); Over/Under 6.5 (-125/+105)
- Last season: Florida won 3-0
- This season: @Detroit Thursday, March 2; @Florida Jan. 17, March 30
- All-time regular season series: Florida leads 36-19-6, 5 ties
- Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday @ Chicago, 8 p.m.
PROJECTED FLORIDA PANTHERS (4-3-1) LINEUP
17 Evan Rodrigues // 16 Sasha Barkov // 13 Sam Reinhart
23 Carter Verhaeghe // 15 Anton Lundell // 19 Matthew Tkachuk
67 William Lockwood // 27 Eetu Luostarinen // 21 Nick Cousins
94 Ryan Lomberg // 82 Kevin Stenlund // 18 Steven Lorentz
42 Gus Forsling // 91 Oliver Ekman-Larsson
77 Niko Mikkola // 7 Dmitry Kulikov
28 Josh Mahura // 26 Uvis Balinksins
72 Sergei Bobrovsky
41 Anthony Stolarz
Scratched: Mike Reilly, Rasmus Asplund
Injured: Aaron Ekblad (LTIR-shoulder), Brandon Montour (IR-shoulder), Jonah Gadjovich (UBI), Sam Bennett (LBI)
PROJECTED DETROIT RED WINGS (6-3-1) LINEUP
93 Alex DeBrincat // 71 Dylan Larkin // 23 Lucas Raymond
18 Andrew Copp // 57 David Perron // 37 JT Compher
88 Daniel Sprong // 90 Joe Veleno // 27 Michael Rasmussen
24 Klim Kostin // 21 Austin Czarnik // 36 Christian Fischer
96 Jake Walman // 53 Moritz Seider
8 Ben Chiarot // 3 Justin Holl
41 Shayne Gostisbehere // 2 Olli Maatta
47 James Reimer
35 Ville Husso
Scratched: Alex Lyon, Jeff Petry
Injured: Robby Fabbri (LBI)