Dec 28, 2013; Sunrise, FL, USA; Detroit Red Wings left wing Justin Abdelkader (8) and Florida Panthers center Marcel Goc (57) collide along the boards in the third period at BB&T Center. The Red Wings won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Quick Look At The Detroit Red Wings Division Rivals: Florida Panthers

Detroit Red Wings are heading into their second season as a part of the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division – even though most of the teams are not even near the Atlantic Ocean – and the editors from our Atlantic Division rivals will be answering a few questions regarding their team, the Detroit Red Wings, and the upcoming season.

First up on our docket is Devin Nolf (DN) the editor of The Rat Trick, where they cover the Florida Panthers.

What were the Florida Panthers biggest additions or subtractions during the off-season?

DN: We had a busy off-season adding Dave Bolland, Jussi Jokinen, Willie Mitchell, Derek MacKenzie, Shawn Thornton, Al Montoya and Aaron Ekblad. Jussi Jokinen and Willie Mitchell for me are the two biggest additions as I see them both playing a ton of minutes and they fill in key needs. Jokinen brings in a scoring punch and Mitchell is just a gritty stay-at-home D-man who gets the job done. Both will also be welcome additions to our lousy PP and PK units.
We didn’t have many notable subtractions other than Tom Gilbert who went to Montreal. I still think he’s a guy we should have kept.

Me: The Panthers bought in some good players, although maybe spent a little too much on them, but the aura in the dressing room still has to change if they want to have consistent success.

Which player on the Panthers will strike fear in the hearts of Detroit Red Wings when on the ice?

DN: Aleksander Barkov is definitely going to be a player that strikes fear into the hearts of the Red Wings when he steps on the ice. When Barkov was on his game last year it seemed as if he was impossible to stop and I would even compare him to an Anze Kopitar type of player. His immense strength and ability to plays at both ends of the ice should make any team worry when he steps on the rink.

Me: Barkov is a solid player and he will certainly worry me when he gets into the Wings’ zone.

Which player on the Detroit Red Wings are you most afraid of when he is on the ice?

DN: Without a doubt Pavel Datsyuk. He’s one of my favorite players to watch because he does everything so well. His offensive and defensive abilities are off the charts and he literally makes the puck look like its on a string sometimes.

Me: Pavel Datsyuk still seems to be the number one answer when I ask this question and for a good reason.

How much of an impact will Aaron Ekblad have on the Panther defense?

DN: I think Aaron will have a big impact on our defense. I see him playing top 4 pairing minutes and getting significant time on our power play unit. However, I expect him to make the normal rookie mistakes towards the beginning of the season as he transitions into the NHL.

Me: There is a lot of hype around this player and I think he is the real deal.

Who do you predict will win the season series?

DN: Last season the Panthers took 3 out of 5 games in the season series and this year the two teams face each other four times. My prediction for the season series is going to be a split. The Wings played through a lot of tough injuries to key players last season but their young players stepped up. The Panthers are going to be much improved this year and I expect them to push Detroit for the forth spot in the division. Expecting evenly matched and exciting games between the two much like last season.

Me: Hopefully Stephen Weiss will be healthy and able to play in all four games against his former team.

A big thank you to Devin over at The Rat Trick for answering these questions and it will be a great season!

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