Panthers-Red Wings Preview

The Associated Press

The Detroit Red Wings fared much better in their second game without Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.

With Datsyuk potentially returning soon, the Red Wings try to keep their momentum going during their set of back-to-back games against the Florida Panthers that begins Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena.

In its first game without its two stars, Detroit (15-8-7) blew a two-goal lead Wednesday against Philadelphia and was denied a season-high fifth straight win with a 6-3 loss.

The Red Wings gave up four goals in the final period of that game but scored twice in that frame in a 3-1 victory in New Jersey on Friday.

Johan Franzen's tiebreaking goal with 7:20 remaining was his third in as many games and extended his point streak to six contests. Franzen has four goals and five assists during that run, and Tomas Tatar has four goals and three assists in his last four games.

That's helped make up for the absence of Datsyuk, who has missed the past six games with a concussion-like symptoms. He has returned to practice and may play in the next two games.

The Red Wings could use his help as he has five goals and eight assists in his 10 career games against the Panthers

Zetterberg is expected to miss at least two weeks with his herniated disc, and Darren Helm is expected to sit out Saturday's game because of a shoulder injury suffered in Wednesday's loss.

"(The Red Wings have) to keep (winning). Tough without big guys but it's important to see we can win without them," Franzen said. "(It's) big for us to see we can win without them."

The Red Wings will try to follow Friday's win by improving on their recent 5-0-2 record against Florida. Detroit is 3-0-1 in the past four home meetings with the Panthers.

Florida (8-16-5) heads into this game only ahead of last-place Buffalo in the Atlantic Division and with a 2-4-1 record in its last seven contests. The Panthers snapped a three-game skid with a 5-2 win over Winnipeg on Thursday, and Dylan Olsen's first NHL goal provided a much-needed spark.

Florida also scored the next two goals to take a comfortable 4-1 early in the third period, and its five tallies were its most since a 6-3 victory over Pittsburgh on Oct. 11. Jimmy Hayes, acquired from Chicago along with Olsen on Nov. 14, scored the game's final goal.

"They're good young guys. They're learning their trade," coach Peter Horachek said. "They both want to be pros. They want to be here."

The Panthers are among the NHL's least effective on offense with 2.21 goals per game and are also near the bottom defensively with 3.21 goals allowed per contest. The Red Wings will try to take advantage and avoid their 11th loss in 13 home games.

Florida is 3-9-2 on the road - tying it with Buffalo and the New York Islanders for the fewest wins away from home - but had earned back-to-back victories there before losing the past two.

Franzen had two goals and an assist in five lifetime matchups against the Panthers, who will host the Red Wings on Tuesday after visiting Chicago on Sunday.

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