Game 5 Preview: Heponiemi set to make NHL Debut in Detroit


This will also be quick, but not as abbreviated as my last post.

Panthers 2017 2nd rounder Aleksi Heponiemi is set to make his NHL debut tonight. The 22 year old had 14 points in 16 games with MODO of the SHL this year, following a disappointing AHL debut campaign in which he only put up 14 points in 49 games. The 5’10 Finn will likely slide onto the fourth line with Noel Acciari and fellow countryman Juho Lammikko, who is expected to play in his first NHL game in two calendar years.

DETROIT PREVIEW

The Detroit Red Wings (2-5-1) are in the middle of a lengthy rebuild. Currently in the midst of a four game skid, the Wings are hoping to snap that tonight as they return home. The Wings are 2-1-1 playing at Little Cesar’s Arena this season. The Wings have rotated between Thomas Greiss and Jonathan Bernier in net this season. Despite Greiss having better numbers, he has yet to win a game and a matchup against Florida, a team Greiss has owned in the past, will be a perfect opportunity for the German netminder to win his first game with his new team. It is highly likely Greiss starts as Bernier was hurt the other night. Tyler Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin lead the team with 6 points each. Bertuzzi and Bobby Ryan lead the team in goal scoring with 4 each, as Filip Hronek’s 5 assists lead the team in that category.

Projected Lines

86 Matthias Brome- 71 Dylan Larkin- 59 Tyler Bertuzzi

39 Anthony Mantha- 92 Vladislav Namestinkov- 54 Bobby Ryan

43 Darren Helm- 51 Valteri Filppula-67 Taro Hirose

27 Michael Rasmussen- 41 Luke Glendening- 48 Givanni Smith

22 Patrik Nemeth- 17 Filip Hronek

18 Marc Staal- 70 Tory Stecher

65 Danny DeKeyser- 44 Christian Djoos

29 Thomas Greiss

45 Jonathan Bernier

Scratched: F Frans Nielsen; D Alex Biega

COVID Protocol: F Filip Zadina; F Sam Gagner; F Robby Fabbri; F Adam Erne; D Jon Merrill

Player to Watch: Filip Hronek. The defender flies well under the radar but has been very impressive offensively so far in his career.

FLORIDA PREVIEW

The Florida Panthers (3-0-1) are looking to get back to winning as their franchise best 3 game win streak to start the season was snapped in a shootout loss to Columbus. The Panthers also hope to keep the point streak alive, but as Defenseman Aaron Ekblad said in an interview the other night “Never be satisfied.” The Panthers will turn to Sergei Bobrovsky in net tonight. Bob has struggled so far this year, but had a strong OT and shootout Tuesday night. Bob’s only shutout last season came against the Wings in November. The Panthers will likely start Driedger tomorrow as the team plays their first back to back of the young season.

Rookie Aleksi Heponiemi is expected to make his NHL debut as previously mentioned. Hepo is the first Panther this season to make his NHL debut. Juho Lammikko is expected to play in his first NHL game since January 2019. Lammikko had 5 assists in 40 games in his 2018-19 campaign, as he subbed in for Vincent Trocheck.

The Panthers leading point scorer so far is Carter Verehaege with 6 points in 4 games. Verehaege is also tied with Patric Hornqvist for the team lead in goals with 4. Anthony Duclair leads the way with 5 assists in the assist column.

Projected Lines

23 Carter Verehaege- 16 Aleksander Barkov- 91 Anthony Duclair

11 Jonathan Huberdeau- 21 Alex Wennberg- 70 Patric Hornqvist

77 Frank Vatrano- 27 Eetu Luostarinen- 10 Brett Connolly

20 Aleksi Heponiemi- 55 Noel Acciari- 83 Juho Lammikko

52 Mackenzie Weegar- 5 Aaron Ekblad

65 Markus Nutivaara- 6 Anton Stralman

3 Keith Yandle- 7 Radko Gudas

72 Sergei Bobrovsky

60 Chris Driedger

Scratched: D Noah Juulsen; F Vinnie Hinostroza

Injury Report: D Gustav Forsling

Player to Watch: Jonathan Huberdeau has struggled to start the season. It is imperative that Huberdeau has a breakout game to get going and this is probably the time to do it.

Prediction

This game will come down to Thomas Greiss. Will Greiss continue to own the Panthers or was his excellent goaltending play against the Cats simply a product of the Islanders? That will be seen tonight. As my friend on twitter Hockey Rob said:

I can see the Panthers winning this game 4-2. I think the game winner will be scored by Brett Connolly.

I am 2-2 with predictions this season.

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