DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings have put together one of the best nine-game stretches in the NHL - but you can bet they'll be looking to avenge their only regulation loss over that span.
The Red Wings will get a chance to do just that Friday night as they host the Florida Panthers in the conclusion of a mini two-game homestand. The Red Wings are 7-1-1 over their past nine contests, with the lone missed points coming in a 4-3 defeat to the Panthers back on Dec. 2.
While the Red Wings hum along as a model of consistency, the Panthers wouldn't mind a little of that themselves. Despite being one of the league's pleasant early-season surprises, Florida has alternated wins and losses over its last six contests and is coming off an uneven effort in a 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues.
Friday marks the continuation of a rough pre-holiday stretch for the Panthers, who will play five of seven games on the road before the break.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Florida, Fox Sports Detroit
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (11-8-7): A road-heavy schedule isn't the only concern for Florida; nine of its next 13 contests will come against teams presently in a playoff spot. The Panthers have points in seven of their 10 games against such teams this season (2-3-5), and that has pleased coach Gerard Gallant.
"I like the way we're playing against good teams," he told the Miami Herald. "We have to keep doing that and we'll win some games. There are no bad teams in our league anymore. I think we rise to the challenge."
ABOUT THE RED WINGS (17-6-6): Despite the team playing its best hockey of the season, the focus in Motown remains the contract status of coach Mike Babcock. Reports have surfaced that Babcock and the Red Wings are close to reaching an agreement on a multi-year extension that would make Babcock the highest-paid bench boss in the league.
But Babcock categorized the rumors as "fantasy" when speaking to reporters Thursday, and insisted that "I'm telling you the truth. Nothing's happening."
1. The road team has prevailed in eight of the last 10 meetings.
2. Detroit is one of only three teams ranked in the top-8 in goals for (3.03 per game) and fewest goals against (2.34).
3. Panthers rookie D Aaron Ekblad has three goals and four assists during a five-game point streak.