Tonight the LA Kings and the Detroit Red Wings meet for the fourth and final time this season. Detroit leads the series 3-0, with wins October 14th (4-1), December 19th (6-2), and January 22nd (3-0).
The 22-30-3 Kings are 3-1-1 since January 22nd, with their only losses coming from Philadelphia (3-2 OT) on the 29th and New Jersey (6-3) on February 2nd.
They rebounded from their loss to the Wings with a 3-1 win over the Ducks on the 24th and beat the Islanders 3-1 two days after losing to the Flyers. On Tuesday, they defeated the Rangers 4-2. They are four games into an eight-game stretch of road; seven of which were after the All-Star Break.
LA is fifth in the Pacific Division and last in the League. They are two points behind Tampa Bay.
Anze Kopitar leads the Kings with 50 points. His 21 goals are second-best to Dustin Brown's 24. Three other Kings have ten or more goals: Cammalleri (15), Alexander Frolov (13), and Patrick O'Sullivan (12).
The Free Press lists Rob Blake (ankle) as out and Kevin Dallman (foot) and Ladislav Nagy (neck) as questionable for tonight. Blake suffered a broken ankle on January 15th, but played through it for six games before going down for two weeks at the start of the month. The Kings put Nagy on the IR on Tuesday while activating forward Mike Cammalleri.
Jason LaBarbera should get the start tonight. If he does, he'll be backed up by the newly-recalled Dan Cloutier.
Detroit leads the league with a 41-10-4 record through 55 games.
The Wings have three 20 or more goal scorers: Henrik Zetterberg (31), Tomas Holmstrom (20) and Dan Cleary (20). Pavel Datsyuk is not far behind with 18. Johan Franzen joined the ten or more goals club Tuesday with his tenth of the season. Brian Rafalski (10), Jiri Hudler (11), and Valtteri Filppula (15) round out the Wings' double-digit scorers. As the Freep points out today, Hudler is goalless in nine and pointless in six.
Niklas Kronwall (shoulder) is the team's only injured player. Derek Meech will fill in once again.
There should be no changes to the lineup tonight.
Projected lines (via Red Wings Corner):
As usual, expect some mixing as the game goes on.
I expect Chris Osgood to get the start tonight.
For more of the Wings' perspective, see Snapshots, Abel to Yzerman, HockeyTownTodd, Behind the Jersey, No Pun Intended, Red Wings Nation, yzerman is god, Detroit Hockey, LetsGoWings, and Winging It In Motown.
Todd has his game-day numbers posted.
This is a key game for the Wings, who must demonstrate that they can maintain concentration even when playing an opponent as low in the standings as the Kings. LA has been strong lately and a win cannot be taken for granted. If Detroit takes this game seriously, the Kings don't stand a chance.
If the Wings are complacent, however, LA could make a statement.