Kings-Red Wings Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 24, 2013
The Los Angeles Kings are already returning to the playoffs. The Detroit Red Wings could use more consistent scoring in their quest to reach the postseason. The Red Wings attempt to move into playoff position by building on their best offensive performance in a month Wednesday night when they go for a fourth straight home win over the Kings. Los Angeles (26-15-5) is headed to the playoffs, with only seeding to play for in its final two games. The reigning Stanley Cup champions are tied with San Jose for fourth in the Western Conference, one point ahead of St. Louis. The Kings hold the tiebreaker on both teams. Detroit (21-16-8) sits ninth in the conference, one point back of Columbus for the eighth and final playoff position and two in front of Dallas. The Red Wings have a game in-hand on both teams, as they look to extend the franchise's postseason streak to 22 years - the first without Steve Yzerman or Nicklas Lidstrom as a captain. "Of course, taking over the captaincy, it means a lot to me for this team to do well," Henrik Zetterberg said. "We've been doing good the past 21 seasons and we want to keep that going." The Red Wings are trying to build some momentum after beating Phoenix 4-0 on Monday, severely denting the Coyotes' chances of reaching the playoffs. It was Detroit's highest scoring output since a 5-1 win at Anaheim on March 22. The offensive struggles have increased the pressure on Jimmy Howard, who is doing his part with a 1.77 goals-against average during a 6-5-3 stretch that started with that win over the Ducks. He owns a 1.25 GAA over the last seven games, but the Wings are 2-2-3. Coach Mike Babcock was asked if Howard was good enough to carry the offensively challenged team. "He has to," he said. Johan Franzen is giving Detroit some scoring punch, netting five goals in five games after scoring twice against the Coyotes. The Red Wings haven't had a problem finding the net against the Kings at home, scoring 15 goals while winning the last three matchups at Joe Louis Arena. That includes a 3-2 victory thanks in large part to a season-best 45 saves from Howard on Feb. 10. Howard stopped 27 shots, but gave up a pair of third-period goals in a 2-1 defeat at Los Angeles on Feb. 27. The Kings are trying to avoid a sixth straight road loss for the first time since Feb. 25-March 14, 2009. They lost as the visitor Tuesday, never recovering from allowing two first-period goals to fall 2-1 at Minnesota. "We didn't play three periods. We didn't deserve to win the game," said captain Dustin Brown, who didn't even get a shot on goal after scoring twice in Sunday's 4-3 overtime win against the Stars. Jeff Carter has two goals and two assists over the past two games, netting Los Angeles' only goal against the Wild after scoring with 51 seconds left in OT on Sunday. The right wing, fourth in the NHL with 26 goals, has three scores and three assists in four meetings with Detroit as a member of the Kings. Anze Kopitar has found the net once in each of the last three games versus the Red Wings, but enters this meeting on a 14-game goal drought.
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