Wed, 14 Nov 2018
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Vancouver

Panthers D Matheson to return against Red Wings

Sports Xchange
20 Oct 2018, 14:16 GMT+10

Defenseman Mike Matheson will be back in the lineup on Saturday night when the Florida Panthers play host to the Detroit Red Wings.

Matheson missed the past two games after he was suspended by the NHL for his check on Vancouver Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson, who suffered a concussion on the play.

"It was an unfortunate sequence of events," Matheson said. "The first thing I thought of after the game was if he was OK. That was my main concern, and it still is, but it sounds like he is doing better. That's great to hear."

Matheson said he and Pettersson exchanged text messages. Matheson, who had never previously been suspended by the NHL, said he apologized to Pettersson.

"As a player, you don't go around trying to injure guys," Matheson said. "That's not part of my game."

Matheson will return Saturday to a joyous team as the Panthers (1-2-2) came up with a huge road win on Friday night, beating the reigning Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals 6-5 in a four-round shootout.

It was Florida's first win of the season.

Meanwhile, the Red Wings (0-5-2), who have won 11 Stanley Cup titles -- more than any other U.S.-based team -- are off to a dreadful start. They have been outscored 33-15 in seven games.

Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who stopped 28 of 30 shots against Tampa Bay on Thursday, including all nine on the power play, is the likely starter on Saturday.

Howard, a 34-year-old who is in the final year of his contract, was probably Detroit's best player last season, posting a 2.85 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage.

This season, Howard has a 3.57 goals-against average and an .893 save percentage, but the Wings are off to one of the worst starts in franchise history, similar to 0-8-1 in 1985-86.

"It's not fun, that's for sure," Howard told NHL.com. "But we've got to keep moving along. We've had a better effort the past couple of games."

Wings coach Jeff Blashill agreed with Howard that progress is being made.

"But I still think we are passing up chances to shoot the puck," said Blashill, who is in the final season of a four-year contract. "We have to get that figured out."

The Wings, who last season missed the playoffs for the second year in a row -- the first time that has happened to Detroit since 1983 -- are short of quality, proven defensemen.

Center Dylan Larkin, 22, is the team's biggest rising star. He is a huge part of Detroit's future, along with other under-25 forwards (Tyler Bertuzzi, Andreas Athanasiou, Anthony Mantha, Christoffer Ehn and Michael Rasmussen).

In addition, three of Detroit's top six defensemen are rookies: Filip Hronek, Joe Hicketts and Dennis Cholowski.

Those rookies will face a high-flying Panthers offense that has averaged exactly four goals for the past four games. That includes a game against the Philadelphia Flyers in which Florida fell behind 5-2 but rallied to force overtime before losing 6-5 in a shootout.

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