Red Wings battle Panthers in Florida

( - The Detroit Red Wings may have Pavel Datsyuk in the lineup on Thursday night when they begin a five-game road trip versus the Florida Panthers.

Datsyuk has missed the past 14 games with a lower-body injury and was able to practice on Wednesday, saying his availability for this game will be determined after Thursday's morning skate.

The 35-year-old, a member of Team Russia for the 2014 Winter Games, has 15 goals and 32 points in 35 games this season.

"Yeah, better every day it's better and now I skate with the team and it's more fun and more enjoyable and more confidence," said Datsyuk on Detroit's official website.

Should Datsyuk be able to play, who will slide onto the roster to replace Jakub Kindl, who is out with a lower-body injury.

Without Datsyuk, in addition to other injuries, the Red Wings have remained on the brink of the playoffs, currently sitting in a tie for eighth place in the Eastern Conference with 62 points. That matches the Philadelphia Flyers and is four back of the seventh-place Toronto Maple Leafs.

Detroit has managed a point in six of its last seven games, going 4-1-2 in that span. The Red Wings were last in action on Monday, notching a 2-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

Justin Abdelkader scored both goals, one into an empty net, while Jimmy Howard and Jonas Gustavsson combined for the shutout.

Gustavsson got the start after Howard allowed six goals in an overtime loss to Washington the day before, but left after making eight saves in the first period due to dizziness. Howard stopped all 16 shots he faced the rest of the way.

"It was a shock (getting into the game)," Howard said. "But sometimes it's easier to be surprised and go in and play."

Howard and Gustavsson's combined shutout was the first for Detroit since Oct. 27, 2001 when Dominik Hasek and Manny Legace blanked Nashville, 1-0.

The Red Wings will play their next five games on the road, including Saturday's test versus the Tampa Bay Lightning that will mark the 6,000th game in franchise history. Detroit will then play its first three games after the Olympic break at Montreal, Ottawa and New Jersey.

The Panthers, meanwhile, aim for a second straight win after snapping a three- game slid with Tuesday's 4-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Tim Thomas made 20 saves for Florida, which had been outscored 16-6 over its skid but unleashed a season-high 48 shots versus the Maple Leafs.

Tim Gilbert, Jesse Winchester, Shawn Matthias and Marcel Goc all scored for the Panthers, who visit Carolina on Friday.

"It was probably our best game of the year," Matthias said. "It was an exciting game for us. We owed them one. We're all happy about it and we'll think about it for the rest of the night and then on to the next one."

The Panthers have had success versus the Red Wings this season and the teams meet for the fifth and final time this campaign. Florida has won three of the four encounters, splitting two contests in Sunrise.

Thomas has been in net for all three wins, posting a 2.21 goals against average, while Howard has started just one of the four meetings. He took a shootout loss after allowing two goals on 27 shots on Dec. 10 and is 1-0-1 with a 1.38 GAA lifetime versus the Panthers.