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Wings try to extend hex over Kings

by Eric Goodman

RED WINGS (21-15-6) AT KINGS (25-15-3)

Last 10 -- Detroit 5-4-1; Los Angeles 5-5-0

Season series -- This is the second of four meetings between the Red Wings and Kings this season. Detroit won 5-2 on Oct. 15 at Joe Louis Arena, getting goals from five different players.

Big story -- The Red Wings have held the upper hand over Los Angeles recently, having won five in a row overall against the Kings and four straight at Staples Center dating back to the 2007-08 season. Detroit has only lost twice in its last 21 contests against the Kings, going back to the 2003-04 season. The Wings are also desperate for the return of forwards Henrik Zetterberg and Dan Clearly, both of whom are nursing separated shoulders but could be back soon.

Team Scope:

Red Wings
-- Detroit has not missed the playoffs since the 1989-90 season but their 48 points this year has them five points behind the Nashville Predators and Kings for the final two seeds. A 4-1 loss at Anaheim on Tuesday had Wings coach Mike Babcock voicing his frustrations over the lackluster performance.

"We weren't prepared to play, for whatever reason," Babcock said. "It was our worst game in a while. We let ourselves down here. I don't think you can even find out how good you can be unless you play as hard as you're capable of playing, and we didn't do that tonight.”

Kings -- Los Angeles has won three straight since dropping its fourth game in a row back on Dec. 30. The Kings are a young, up-and-coming squad that is looking to make a playoff appearance for the first time since the 2001-02 season. Los Angeles won 6-2 in its most recent contest against the Pacific Division-leading Sharks. The fact that they also scored the first six goals in that game had at least one player singing the praises of his team’s recently strong play.

“We have a good team,’’ Kings leading scorer Anze Kopitar said after Monday’s game. “Maybe not for 6-0 after 41 minutes of play, but we came out confident and we killed some of their power plays and we were able to capitalize on the power play. That's huge, as we all know.”

Who’s hot -- Right wing Todd Bertuzzi has four points and is a plus-3 in his last five games for the Wings. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick has won three straight with a 1.66 goals against average and 103 saves over that span.

Injury report -- Zetterberg and Cleary are aiming to return Thursday. Still on injured reserve are defenseman Niklas Kronwall (sprained left MCL) and forwards Johan Franzen (knee) and Jason Williams (broken fibula). Defenseman Andreas Lilja has not played this season due to post-concussion symptoms and defenseman Jonathan Ericsson remains out indefinitely with a bone bruise to his left knee. .. Los Angeles defenseman Randy Jones has been sidelined since mid-December with concussion-like symptoms and was placed on IR Wednesday, joining forwards Jarret Stoll (groin), Justin Williams (right leg/ankle surgery) and Andrei Lokitonov (shoulder surgery).

Stat pack
-- Detroit is second in the Western Conference with an average of 33.3 shots per game. Quick is tied with the Coyotes Ilya Bryzgalov and the Sharks Evgeni Nabokov for the Western Conference lead in wins with 23.

Puck drop
-- Both clubs are somewhat at a crossroads entering Thursday night’s game. The Red Wings are trying to fight through a season’s worth of injuries to get back into the top eight in the West, while the Kings need to continue winning games against their conference rivals in order to establish themselves as a team that is as a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. Los Angeles could certainly make a strong statement by defeating a Red Wings team that has given them nothing but trouble over the past few seasons.

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