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Kings return home to battle Red Wings

by Brian Hunter
RED WINGS (44-22-3) at KINGS (32-25-12)


Last 10:
Detroit 4-5-1; Los Angeles 5-4-1

Season Series:
Fourth and final meeting of the season. The Red Wings will be going for the sweep, having outscored the Kings 16-6 in the first three matchups. Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk scored 3 goals apiece, while Niklas Kronwall amassed 2 goals and 5 points.

Big Story:
As Los Angeles continues to scratch and claw its way toward the top eight in the Western Conference, Detroit has concerns of its own. The injury-riddled Red Wings have the Central Division rival Predators right on their heels in the battle for the No. 4 seed and home ice in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The good news is they're set to get No. 1 goalie Jimmy Howard back for this game, while Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom could make their returns at some point on this road trip.

Team Scope:

Red Wings:
Howard, who missed time earlier this season with a broken finger, has missed the last three games with a sore groin. Backup Joey MacDonald, who won seven in a row filling in for Howard the first time around, has looked a little more average during this stint, allowing nine goals on 67 shots (.866 save percentage). Detroit never led and was edged 3-2 in Nashville on Saturday, getting goals from Drew Miller and Justin Abdelkader. The Red Wings will look to improve on a mediocre 16-18-1 road record with games this week at Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose.

"Playoffs are coming up, and we've got some really difficult games on the road, so this could possibly be an opportunity for us to get our game more like our home game," forward Darren Helm said in the Detroit Free Press. "It really hasn't been good enough, and you can't be a great team without winning on the road. And we're not at that point yet."

They don't call it the wild, wild West for nothing -- Los Angeles has been in and out of the top eight over the past several weeks, and though the Kings begin Tuesday's action sitting on the wrong side of the cutoff, a couple wins could easily change that and a prolonged streak might even give them a shot at the Pacific Division title. Jonathan Quick was up to his usual tricks on Sunday night in Chicago, stopping 35 shots through regulation and overtime, then keeping the Blackhawks off the board through six rounds of a shootout before Mike Richards was finally able to secure the Kings' 3-2 victory.

"Everyone knows what our situation is," said Jeff Carter, who scored along with Slava Voynov in regulation. "It seems like everyone we're chasing and battling with is winning right now. We need every point we can get. We knew this shootout point was huge and Quickie came up big for us."

Who's Hot:
Zetterberg has 5 goals and 7 assists in his last seven games for the Red Wings, while Valtteri Filppula has 5 goals and 6 assists over the same span. … Dustin Brown has 5 goals and 7 assists during an eight-game points streak for the Kings. Carter has 4 goals and 1 assist in his last five games. Justin Williams has 3 goals and 1 assist in his last four games.

Injury Report:
With Howard once again good to go, Detroit turns its attention toward Lidstrom (ankle) and Datsyuk (knee), who appear to be close to returning. Forward Todd Bertuzzi (groin) and defenseman Jakub Kindl (upper body) could also be back soon. Defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (wrist) isn't expected back until the end of the month. … Los Angeles forward Simon Gagne (concussion) is on injured reserve.

Stat Pack:
Howard, who led NHL goalies in wins before suffering the broken finger, still ranks third with 33 and has time to eclipse the career-high 37 he's recorded each of the past two seasons. … Carter's goal Sunday was the 200th of his career in his 508th game.

Puck Drop:
After playing four straight and eight of 10 on the road, Los Angeles won't have to travel far over the next couple weeks. Tuesday's game begins a stretch where five of the next six are at Staples Center. The only road game is a quick trip to Anaheim on Friday.

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