The Florida Panthers just finished a 2-2-1 road trip and are in need of some good vibes when they return home Thursday to face the Detroit Red Wings.
“We’ve got to take some confidence back to home ice,” Panthers forward Sam Reinhart said after Florida lost 5-2 at Winnipeg on Tuesday. “It seems like it’s been a few months since we were home.”
It’s actually been nearly two weeks since the Panthers have played a home game, a 5-4 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues on Nov. 26.
Home ice, where the Panthers are 6-2-3 this season, should help. They are 6-8-1 on the road.
Thursday’s game opens a streak of five straight contests played within the state of Florida, including a short trip to face the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Panthers are facing two major issues: injuries among their forwards and uncertainty at goalie.
Panthers coach Paul Maurice played Tuesday’s game without four of his top nine forwards: captain Aleksander Barkov (non-COVID illness); Anton Lundell (upper-body injury); Anthony Duclair (foot); and Patric Hornqvist (upper body).
Hornqvist and Duclair are on injured reserve, although the latter could return this month.
Barkov and Lundell are day-to-day. Barkov (39) and Duclair (31) combined for 70 goals last season, and Lundell, 21, is a player on the rise with 22 goals in 89 NHL games.
At goalie, Spencer Knight was pulled on Tuesday after allowing three goals on 15 shots.
Sergei Bobrovsky, who opened the season as the starter, has struggled this season. He is 4-6-1 with a 3.84 goals-against average that is on pace to be the worst GAA of his 13-year career.
Knight has been the better goalie this season, going 8-4-3 with a 2.64 GAA. But it remains to be seen if Knight getting pulled on Tuesday will open the door for a Bobrovsky start on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the rebuilding Red Wings are much improved and will enter Thursday on a two-game win streak. In fact, Detroit has won four straight road games.
Overall this season, Detroit is 6-3-2 on the road.
The Red Wings are getting excellent goaltending from Ville Husso, who is 11-4-3 with a 2.54 GAA. The 27-year-old native of Finland had a career year for St. Louis last season, going 25-7-6 with a 2.56 GAA.
On Tuesday, Husso made 44 saves — including an incredible 28 in the third period — to beat Tampa Bay.
“That’s a team that’s been to the Stanley Cup Final the past three years,” Husso said of Tampa Bay. “We knew we had to play at their level.”
One Detroit player who is competing at a high level is Andrew Copp, who has one goal and four assists in his past five games. In addition, Filip Hronek broke a Detroit record by getting at least one point in 11 straight road games. He has four goals and 10 assists in those 11 games.
Overall this season, captain Dylan Larkin leads Detroit in assists (17) and points (26). Dominik Kubalik leads Detroit with 10 goals and ranks second with 25 points. Hronek is third with 24 points.
–Field Level Media