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Matchup: Detroit Red Wings vs. Los Angeles Kings
Venue: Staples Center; Los Angeles, California
Time: 10:00 pm EST
Coming off two of their most dominant victories of the season, the Detroit Red Wings (9-7-3, 21 points, 8th place Western Conference) will look to keep their new found momentum going as they begin a two game west coast trip when they head to Los Angeles to take on the defending Stanley Cup champions Los Angeles Kings (9-6-2, 20 points, 9th place Western Conference).
The Red Wings were able to find a way to beat two of the premier goaltenders in the NHL in Pekka Rinne and Roberto Luongo to the sound of twelve goals in two games after scoring twelve in the previous five game losing streak. The Red Wings will face their third straight tough test in goal when they face reigning Conn Smyth trophy winner Jonathan Quick and the surging Los Angeles Kings for the second time this season. The Red Wings used the powerplay to top both Nashville and Vancouver by scoring on 4 of their 7 total powerplay chances, but are still only converting on 16.47% of their opportunities this season. If the Red Wings are going to remain in the playoff hunt, the powerplay will need to get going on the road as the Red Wings are still the only NHL team yet to score a powerplay goal on the road. The Red Wings have a chance to end that streak tonight as the Los Angeles Kings are currently 18th in the league in penalty killing.
The Red Wings power burst this past weekend was aided by the strong play of Niklas Kronwall (2 goals, 4 assists in 2 games) who has stepped up well thus far taking over the top defensive spot after the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom. Kronwall’s 16 points is tops among all NHL defensemen and his 23:50 total on ice per game leads all Red Wings skaters. He is currently one of the Red Wings hottest players, and will need to step up his game on the road, where he has registered only 3 points (0 goals, 3 assists) in 7 road games so far this season.
Coming off of their first Stanley Cup win in franchise history, the Los Angeles Kings have not had the same success to begin this shortened season as they did on their miraculous playoff run. The Red Wings did not help that much earlier this month in a 3-2 win in which Jonathan Ericsson scored with 5 seconds left to lift the Red Wings after Alec Martinez tied the game at 2 with 53 seconds remaining in the game. Jimmy Howard played arguably his strongest game of the season making 45 of 47 saves while making some difficult saves along the way. The Los Angeles Kings have picked up their play recently by winning four in a row and 7 out of the past 10 overall while outscoring their opponents 15-5 on the current 4 game winning streak. Their most recent victory on Monday night came against the Anaheim Ducks in convincing fashion by a final score of 5-2. The Kings will be without Simon Gagne (0 goals, 5 assists) after he was traded to Philadelphia Tuesday afternoon for a conditional draft pick.
Even with the strong play the past two weeks, the Kings still currently trail the Red Wings in the standings by one point with 20 points with two games in hand, so this is a crucial game for the Red Wings to help solidify them a little more in the playoff race. It is also crucial for the Red Wings to show that they are able to continue to play high caliber hockey against strong Western Conference teams that they could possibly face in the playoffs. The end of February is a significant period in this 48 game season as it is nearly the halfway point, so teams need to gather as many points as possible as the stretch run begins to try and separate themselves from the teams on the outside looking in.
After the two strong outings this weekend, Jimmy Howard will make his fifth straight start while the Red Wings will be getting big bodied Johan Franzen back in the lineup after missing the past seven games with a hip flexor injury. Brendan Smith (shoulder) and Kyle Quincey (ankle) will also both be in the lineup which should give some relief to a banged up defensive corps. Ian White and Kent Huskins will be healthy scratches with the return of Smith and Quincey. The Red Wings will be without Valtteri Filppula as he is day to day with a left shoulder sprain.
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