Season series -- It's the third meeting of four, the first two played in December when the Kings were starting to heat up again and could create a couple of bumps in the road for the Wings, the first game starting a three-game losing streak for Detroit and the second one sparking three losses out of four.
Big story -- No question this game is bigger for the Kings than the Wings. Detroit is comfortably in control of the Central Division and about as safely in the second seed in the West as anybody can be these days, four points ahead of Pacific-leading San Jose. The Kings have that third spot in sight, four points behind the Sharks and four points ahead of ninth-place Chicago, a reward for going 11-1-3 in their last 15 games. In other words, it's business as usual in the Western Conference.
Red Wings -- Home is where the road is, says the Wings' official website. The breakdown says they're 17-10-4 at Joe Louis Arena, a closer look shows a recent 8-9-2 record at home. Contrast that with a 20-8-2 away mark and it's easy to see why coach Mike Babcock just can't wait to get on the road again.
"Thank God we're going on the road and don't have to come back to the Joe," he said before the team embarked on their current five-game expedition. "So maybe we can help ourselves out and get it going."
They shuffled off to Buffalo and got their fifth road win in a row Saturday night, a 3-2 shootout victory over the Sabres that actually started out a bit like their recent home games, with a 2-0 deficit after one period of play. Pavel Datsyuk and Jiri Hudler evened things up to force overtime, Hudler scoring with less than a minute left. Both then proceeded to score in the shootout and secure the extra point.
Kings -- They've wanted some extra firepower, and Saturday night the Kings got it from an unexpected source -- the blue line. Drew Doughty and Alec Martinez joined Anze Kopitar and Jarret Stoll on the board in the Kings' 4-3 win over the Avalanche, their third in a row overall and fourth head-to-head versus the Avs. One cause for concern was the three unanswered goals the Avalanche scored after LA opened up a 4-0 lead.
"We made it interesting at the end just through getting too casual, a little careless with some plays at critical times at the game," coach Terry Murray said. "You go into the third period with that kind of scenario you want to make sure you’re able to lock it down. Good teams do. You don’t get reckless or careless and start taking some penalties, especially the high sticking penalties…We have to clean that part of it up right away."
Earlier in the day, the Kings found out that the Capitals had claimed Marco Sturm off waivers, possibly exacerbating the need for an extra forward on deadline day. GM Dean Lombardi later explained that Sturm had been waived to create a spot for a possible addition at the deadline.
"That's it in a nutshell, that if we had, or, if we do something here Sunday, then we would be in a roster jam and we wouldn’t be able to do anything," he told the Kings' official website. "You saw Chicago do it with (Nick) Boynton. They lost Boynton, too, but you have to weigh the risk in order to create the best possibility."
Who's hot -- Out of the 19 goals the Kings have scored in their last seven games, seven have come from defensemen, most notably Doughty, whose goal on Saturday was his sixth in 11 games. Kopitar has goals in three straight games and now has 20 or more in each of his first five NHL seasons. Hudler has 10 points in his last eight games, as does Kopitar.
Injury report -- Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski sat out the Buffalo game with back spasms, but is expected back for Monday's game. Chris Osgood's impending return from sports hernia surgery is one reason the Wings are unlikely to make major moves at the deadline, in addition to Jimmy Howard's improved play in February and only $600,000 in cap space. Forward Patrick Eaves suffered a groin injury last Tuesday and is expected back in early March. Kings forward Scott Parse remains out long-term due to hip surgery.
Stat pack -- Kings forward Ryan Smyth recorded his 400th career assist Saturday night. The win gave the Kings 39 points at home after 29 dates (19-9-1) which ties a team record set in 1974-75 (16-6-7) and matched in 2005-06 (19-9-1). The 42 shots on the Avalanche tie a season high. Mike Modano returned to the lineup against Buffalo after missing 41 games with a slashed wrist. The most he'd ever missed before this season was 30 in 1997-98 with the Stars. Howard's two recent losses at home ended a four-game personal winning streak, three of them on the road.
Puck drop -- "I think the big difference is we keep the game pretty simple. It's not pretty, but we give ourselves the best chance to win. For whatever reason we don’t seem to want to do that as home as much, we get on the road and we keep it simple." -- Red Wings defenseman Brad Stuart via the team's official website on why it has played so much better on the road lately