TV: FOX Sports Florida
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.
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SUNRISE, Fla. — Perhaps now — with four more home games in a row — is when the Florida Panthers make their move up the standings.
The Panthers are just 4-5-0 overall, but they are 3-1-0 at home after routing the Anaheim Ducks 8-3 on Thursday. It was Florida’s most goals since 2009.
“That’s what we’ve talked about — taking advantage of this homestand,” Panthers rookie coach Bob Boughner said. “We want to make sure that when we get into November, we are over .500 and start climbing a bit.”
On Saturday night, the Panthers continue their five-game homestand by hosting the Detroit Red Wings, who have lost six straight contests, earning just one point during that span.
Detroit will have to contend with a top Panthers line that seems to be clicking. Center Aleksander Barkov and left winger Jonathan Huberdeau are tied for the team lead with 10 points each, and right winger Evgeni Dadonov has nine.
Barkov, 22, has three goals and four assists in his past four games, showing why he is regarded as one of the best young centers in the NHL. He had three points on Thursday, including two slick assists to set up Dadonov goals.
“‘Barkie’ is a beast out there,” Boughner said. “He’s dynamite.”
Boughner added that “teams are trying to keep their big boys (best scorers) away from him,” which is a reference to Barkov’s defensive prowess as well.
If there is a concern on the Panthers, it is depth among their forwards. Florida is in excellent shape at center, where is has Barkov; Vincent Trocheck, who also has 10 points; Radim Vrbata, who had a hat trick on Thursday; and captain Derek MacKenzie, who mans the fourth line and is known for defense and penalty-killing.
But on the wings, the Panthers have been caught short thanks to upper-body injuries to Connor Brickley and Colton Sceviour and a lower-body injury to Jared McCann.
To try to address that problem, Florida on Friday recalled forward Chase Balisy from Springfield of the American Hockey League. Balisy, 25, scored 17 goals and had 45 points in 76 games for Springfield last season.
The Panthers, who are missing starting goalie Roberto Luongo for the moment, are grateful to have James Reimer in the nets. He is 3-3-0 this season, and part of his success on Thursday was a direct result of the Panthers standing up for each other.
After Reimer was run over, defenseman Alex Petrovic came to his rescue and pushed back on the Ducks. And after Barkov was cross-checked to the face, Panthers winger Michael Haley started a fight.
That’s what winning teams do, and right now, Florida’s next opponent, the Red Wings, are not getting it done in advance of their visit to the BB&T Center.
Last season, Detroit missed the playoffs for the first time since 1989-1990 — an impressive run halted.
This season, the Red Wings are relatively healthy — only defenseman Danny DeKeyser (lower body) shows up on the injury report — but are still struggling with a 4-6-1 record and their recent slump.
Jimmy Howard, 33, is still a solid goalie, but Detroit’s defense has become slow and plodding, and Detroit is below average offensively as well.
Part of the problem is that some of the Wings’ biggest stars have aged north of 35, including 37-year-old defenseman Niklas Kronwall and 37-year-old left winger Henrik Zetterberg.
In addition, 23-year-old center Andreas Athanasiou — one of the team’s young stars — held out in a contract dispute and didn’t play his first game until Thursday. After scoring 18 goals last year, he has zero points so far.
“We’re looking for a jolt,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill told the media this week. “Hopefully, (Athanasiou) can give us that jolt.”