DETROIT - Fresh off winning back-to-back games for the first time in more than a month, the Detroit Red Wings go for a season-high third straight victory at home on Sunday against the Florida Panthers. The Red Wings are coming off impressive home wins over Original Six rivals Chicago and Montreal - the first time they have won back-to-back games at Joe Louis Arena since mid-October.
"The two big wins were huge," rookie center Riley Sheahan said. "I know the guys are going to get fired up ... and just try to keep it going."
The Panthers have the second-fewest wins in the Eastern Conference but they have hardly been pushovers, particularly against some of the league's better teams. Florida owns a pair of victories over Pittsburgh, snapping the Penguins' franchise-record 13-game home winning streak on Monday, and have won two of three against Detroit this season - with each decided by one goal. The Panthers, who lost a 3-2 decision at home to Colorado on Friday night, are kicking off a four-game road trip.
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ABOUT THE PANTHERS (20-24-7): Rookie center Aleksander Barkov did not travel with the team to Detroit and will miss his second straight game with a knee injury, but coach Peter Horachek is hopeful that Florida's leading scorer will join the team during the four-game trip. Veteran Scott Gomez, a healthy scratch for 11 straight games, took Barkov's place in Friday's contest by centering the top line of Brad Boyes and Sean Bergenheim.
"Not playing for a while, he really showed well," Horachek said. "Winning that many faceoffs (10-of-13) takes a lot of work and experience."
ABOUT THE RED WINGS (23-18-10): Forwards Daniel Alfredsson and Darren Helm, defenseman Jonathan Ericsson and backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson came back from injuries this week and Johan Franzen could rejoin the lineup Sunday after sitting out the past 16 games due to a concussion. Franzen is still fifth on the team in scoring despite the lengthy absence and had 17 points in 17 games before he was sidelined.
"He played really well before he got injured," Ericsson said. "Hopefully it doesn't take him too long to get back to that same form. We really need him at his best game."
1. Gustavsson will make his third consecutive start Sunday in place of an injured Jimmy Howard.
2. The Panthers have failed to convert on a franchise-record 38 consecutive power plays.
3. In anticipation of Franzen's return, Detroit placed F Mikael Samuelsson on waivers Saturday.
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