Detroit (35-16-6) at Florida (24-25-7)

By KATE HEDLIN, STATS Writer Friday, Feb 18, 2011 Puck Drop: 7:30 pm EST Fri Feb 18, 2011

Against two of the top teams in the East, the Detroit Red Wings’ offense has come alive. Keeping their strong play going when facing one of that conference’s worst clubs should be even easier.

The Red Wings look to match a season-high four-game winning streak Friday night when they visit the last-place Florida Panthers.

Detroit (35-16-6) scored four goals and was blanked twice in a four-game stretch from Feb. 4-9. However, after outscoring Boston 10-3 in a home-and-home series sweep last weekend, the Red Wings defeated Tampa Bay 6-2 on Thursday in the opener of a three-game road trip.

Detroit scored twice in the first period and responded with two goals in the final 3 1/2 minutes of the second period after the Lightning tied it. Pavel Datsyuk(notes) finished with two goals, Danny Cleary(notes) had one goal and two assists and Jimmy Howard(notes) made 38 saves.

“This is the standard in the league. This is the best all-around team,” Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher said of the Red Wings, who have the second-best record in the West behind Vancouver.

The return of Datsyuk continues to pay off for Detroit. Since coming back from a broken right wrist that sidelined him 19 games, Datsyuk has four goals and three assists in five games.

Datsyuk also has registered at least one point in each contest he’s played against Florida, totaling four goals and seven assists in eight games.

With Detroit’s offense on a roll after defeating two division leaders, the team will look to win four straight for the first time since Nov. 26-Dec. 3. The Red Wings, who are 18-8-2 on the road this season, have won four of their last five and 10 of 14 away from Detroit.

Currently 12th in the East, Florida (24-25-7) could struggle to put up a challenge. It has lost three of four, including a 4-2 defeat to Philadelphia on Wednesday.

After the Flyers scored twice 65 seconds apart in the first period, and leading 3-0 in the second, the Panthers had a potential goal by Marty Reasoner(notes) denied following a review. Florida scored twice in the third to draw within one, but lamented opportunities that were lost early.

“If we had played a solid first, it might have been a different game,” said Chris Higgins(notes), a forward for Southeast Division-worst Florida. “We didn’t show up with our sharpest game in the first and it cost us.”

This closes a five-game homestand for the Panthers, who have dropped six of their last seven at home, scoring more than two goals only once over that stretch.

Detroit lost its only meeting with Florida last season, 2-1 in overtime at home. However, the Red Wings are 7-1-1 with two ties on the road in the series, and haven’t fallen in regulation at Florida since a 3-1 defeat in 1996.

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