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Tuesday, December 10th (All times Eastern)
Detroit Red Wings (15-9-7) at Florida Panthers (9-17-5), 7:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - Pavel Datsyuk is ready to return from a seven-game absence when his Detroit Red Wings aim for revenge in Tuesday's road battle against the Florida Panthers.
Datsyuk missed the last seven tilts with a concussion sustained in a loss against Ottawa on Nov. 23. Although Datsyuk still leads Detroit with 12 goals this season, the club managed to post a 5-2-0 record without the star forward in the lineup.
The Russian centerman returned to practice last week and hopes to be in game shape for Tuesday's test in the Sunshine State
"Can do lots of stuff in practice but in games it's different level. We'll see tomorrow," Datsyuk told his club's web site after practice on Monday.
Even with Datsyuk set to return, the Red Wings are far from 100 percent at the moment. Henrik Zetterberg, who leads Detroit with 30 points this season, will miss a fourth straight game on Tuesday due to a herniated disc in his back. Zetterberg did not travel with the team for its two-game tour of Florida, meaning he'll also sit out Thursday's contest in Tampa.
Key penalty-killer Darren Helm also has missed the last two games for Detroit and is expected to miss at least another week of action with a sprained shoulder.
While Datsyuk is ready to go back into the lineup, Stephen Weiss will make a different kind of return on Tuesday. The former Florida Panther is playing in Sunrise for the first time since leaving the fold to sign a free-agent deal with Detroit last offseason.
Weiss was selected by Florida with the fourth overall pick of the 2001 draft and remained with the organization until signing a five-year, $24.5 million deal with Detroit last summer. A four-time 20-goal scorer during his time with the Panthers, the 30-year-old centerman is off to a disappointing start with the Red Wings, managing just two goals and two assists in 25 games this season.
The Panthers downed Weiss and the Red Wings when the teams met a few days ago in Detroit. Jonathan Huberdeau netted the game winner 3:29 into the third period, lifting the Panthers to a 2-1 decision over the Red Wings.
Weiss failed to register a point in his first meeting with his former club and saw his goal-scoring drought reach 19 games. It's the second-longest dry spell of his career, following a 21-game stretch without a goal for Florida back in 2002-03, his first full season as an NHLer.
Jimmy Hayes also lit the lamp and Shawn Matthias tallied a pair of assists for the Panthers, who won for just the second time in their last six meetings against Detroit.
"We're doing the simple things and keeping our energy level high," Hayes said of the team notching back-to-back wins.
Tim Thomas turned aside 22 shots to backstop Florida to the win, while Jonas Gustavsson was the tough-luck loser for Detroit, stopping 35-of-37 shots. Danny Cleary registered the lone marker for the Red Wings, who have been idle since Saturday's battle with the Panthers.
Saturday's win gave Florida consecutive wins for just the second time this season, but the Panthers couldn't extend the winning streak to three when it visited Chicago on Sunday. The Blackhawks were leading 3-0 by the early stages of the second period and won by a 6-2 score in the end.
Dylan Olsen and Marcel Goc scored for Florida, while Scott Clemmensen surrendered all six goals on 32 shots to take the loss.
Thomas will get the start in net tonight and is 2-3-0 with a 2.65 goals against average in six career games against the Red Wings.
Detroit, meanwhile, will turn to Jimmy Howard in net on Tuesday. He is 1-0 for his career against the Panthers, with his only appearance in this series coming in a 2-1 victory in Detroit on April 1, 2012.
The Red Wings have an impressive 10-3-1 road record this season, while the Panthers are just 5-7-3 as the host.
12/10 11:07:29 ET