This season's final edition of Wednesday Night Rivalry matches a pair of Western Conference teams with differing priorities.
The Los Angeles Kings come to Joe Louis Arena looking for points to assure themselves of fourth place in the Western Conference, which would give them the home-ice edge in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Detroit Red Wings are just worried about getting to the postseason; they come into the game outside the top eight, and should they stay that way, they'll miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990.
The Kings are gunning for home ice in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs while the Red Wings are just trying to get there, making for what should be a dramatic Wednesday matchup. (Photo: Noah Graham/NHLI)
Here's a look at two teams with plenty to play for as the season winds down:
A battle of equals -- To say the Kings and Red Wings have battled on even terms since L.A. entered the NHL in 1967 would be putting it mildly. This is the 190th regular-season meeting between the teams; each has won 81 times, with the other 27 ending in ties. They've met 14 times since the start of the 2009-10; each team has seven victories, including one each this season. The Kings have actually outscored Detroit 667-658 in their 189 meetings, but have lost their past three visits to Joe Louis Arena.
Not Quick enough -- Kings' goaltender Jonathan Quick was the loser in Detroit's 3-2 home victory on Feb. 10, a game in which the Red Wings scored the game-winner with 4.5 seconds remaining in regulation. The loss dropped the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner's career record against Detroit to 6-10-0 with a 3.16 goals-against average. It's the most regulation losses he's had against any team, and his GAA against Detroit is his worst against any team he's faced more than three times. Backup Jonathan Bernier played in the rematch, a 2-1 Kings victory at Los Angeles on Feb. 27.
A beacon of Kope -- Anze Kopitar is on his way to leading the Kings in scoring for the sixth consecutive reason, and he's been involved in three of the four goals Los Angeles has scored against the Red Wings this season. Kopitar had a goal in the 3-2 loss at Detroit on Feb. 10, then had an assist and the game-winning goal in L.A.'s 2-1 victory 17 days later.
Saving grace -- Detroit's Jimmy Howard put on one of the best performances by any goaltender in the Red Wings' 3-2 victory on Feb. 10. Howard faced 47 shots, tied for the fifth-highest total a goalie has seen in a game this season, and stopped 45 of them. That game is the only time this season the Red Wings have allowed more than 38 shots. The 47 shots are also the most by the Kings in a game this season.
Shootout struggles -- If the game goes to a shootout, someone is going to achieve a first this season. The Kings are 2-5 this season and have lost all three tiebreakers on the road, while the Red Wings' 2-4 record includes an 0-3 showing at home. Los Angeles' troubles in the tiebreaker can be attributed to the goaltenders -- opposing shooters have scored on 12 of 22 attempts (54.5 percent). The Red Wings' problems have come from their shooters; they are just 5-for-23 (21.7 percent).