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Red Wings' late push continues against Kings

by Mike Battaglino /

KINGS (26-15-5) at RED WINGS (21-16-8)


Last 10: Los Angeles 6-2-2; Detroit 4-3-3

Season series: This is the rubber match of three meetings. The Detroit Red Wings won 3-2 Feb. 10; the Los Angeles Kings were victorious 2-1 Feb. 27.

Big story: This is the game in hand Detroit holds on the Columbus Blue Jackets, trailing by one point for eighth place in the Western Conference. The Red Wings close with a home game against the Nashville Predators on Thursday before a season finale at the also-in-contention Dallas Stars on Saturday. If Detroit wins all three, they are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the 22nd consecutive season.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Kings have clinched a playoff spot and are battling with the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues for seed four, five or six.

"Going forward, we're going to play some desperate teams," forward Anze Kopitar told the Kings website. "A desperate team in Detroit tomorrow that's trying to get in and then [we'll] battle pretty much head-to-head against San Jose, I think, for the fourth spot."

Team Scope:

Kings: Los Angeles closed last season 3-0-3 to grab the eighth seed that led to a run that won the championship. The Kings, after a 2-1 loss to the playoff-chasing Minnesota Wild on Monday, expect to gain a competitive edge facing hard-working teams down the stretch.

"Yeah, you can," Kopitar said. "I mean, I know we were in that position last year, and our playoffs started with about 15 games to go in the season or 20. Now we definitely know what the other team is thinking to get into the playoffs and what we were thinking last year."

The loss at the Wild was the Kings' first in regulation since April 9 (4-1-1). Los Angeles is 8-11-4 on the road this season.

"We're facing another desperate team (Wednesday), one that's fighting for their playoff lives, and positioning, and so are we," defenseman Robyn Regehr told Fox Sports. "I think we're in the same situation; we need a little bit more urgency, especially early on in the game."

The Kings will be without captain Dustin Brown, who Wednesday was suspended by the NHL for two games for elbowing Minnesota's Jason Pominville in the game Tuesday.

Red Wings: Detroit has made the playoffs 21 straight seasons, a streak almost as old as some of the emerging players who are trying to get them to 22.

The in-transition Red Wings are finding out a lot about 23-year-olds Danny DeKeyser and Gustav Nyquist, and 24-year-olds Joakim Andersson, Cory Emmerton and Brendan Smith.

"I think it's fun to be in big games because players get to tell you how hard they compete, how much drive-train they have," coach Mike Babcock told the Detroit News. "And, to me, those things all come in front of skill, this time of year. … I'm excited to see how we do here."

The younger players are well aware of the streak that is on the line.

"We don't want to be that team -- especially being a rookie -- coming in and not making the playoffs after 21 years of them making it," Smith told the newspaper.

During the streak, the Red Wings have never been worse than the fifth seed.

"It's nice to play games that are playoff-like hockey; it's going to be like that for the rest of the year here now," captain Henrik Zetterberg told the team's website. "We've been playing that for probably the last five, six games. So it's good experience for a lot of guys who haven't been in the playoffs, to get that experience starting now."

Who's hot: Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who did not play against the Wild, has four wins in his past five games with a 1.72 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. Defenseman Drew Doughty has five goals in April after scoring one before it. Forward Mike Richards has six points in his past six games. … Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard has two shutouts in his past four games, and has allowed more than two goals once in his past eight. Forward Johan Franzen has 10 points in 10 April games.

Injury report: Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi (back, leg), who last played Feb. 7, won't return Wednesday, but might Thursday. Forwards Darren Helm (back), Mikael Samuelsson (pectoral) and Drew Miller (hand) are out.

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