The hobbled Detroit Red Wings try to avoid a third straight loss this evening as they play host to the Los Angeles Kings.
The Red Wings were handed a 3-2 defeat in Philadelphia on Tuesday and played the game without a handful of their top players. No. 1 goaltender Jimmy Howard, veteran defender Nicklas Lidstrom and sniper Pavel Datsyuk all missed the game with injury as did Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl and Todd Bertuzzi.
Joey MacDonald started in place of Howard and made 20 saves, while Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen had the goals. Detroit, though, suffered its fifth loss in seven games and now trails St. Louis by four points for the most in the Central Division, Western Conference and overall NHL standings.
Detroit went 0-for-4 on the power play in the game and gave up a short-handed goal as well.
"We were just not fluid. We didn't come with speed," Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock said. "We got one in the end, but we had power plays to build momentum early. You give their penalty kill credit, too. There's nothing wrong, but we were dysfunctional coming into their zone there for a while, so that wasn't good enough. But I think when you're stretched, like we are anyway, with players out, your power play has to be good for you because you're offensively more challenged than you normally are."
Howard, Bertuzzi, Kindl and Lidstrom are not expected back for tonight's game, though Datsyuk is inching closer to a return. He skated with his teammates on Thursday without limitation.
The Red Wings will have defenseman Niklas Kronwall after the league opted not to discipline the blueliner for his heavy hit on Philadelphia's Jakub Voracek on Tuesday. Though it appeared that Kronwall did make some contract with Voracek's face, the winger had his head down, no penalty was called and even Voracek admitted it was a clean hit.
Detroit will return home for a game before hitting the road for four straight. It is 27-4-2 as the host compared to 16-17-1 on the road, but has lost three of its past four at home.
The Kings badly need a win tonight after having a three-game win streak snapped last night in a 3-1 setback to the lowly Blue Jackets. With the defeat, Los Angeles fell a point behind San Jose for the eighth spot in the Western Conference. The Kings also trail the Stars by five points for first place in the Pacific Division.
Los Angeles faced Columbus for the first time since trading a first-round draft pick and defenseman Jack Johnson to the Blue Jackets for forward Jeff Carter. Johnson scored a goal against his former club, while Carter was booed by the Columbus crowd each time he touched the puck.
"I kind of figured so. I tried not to think about what was going to happen. I just kind of went in and played my game," said Carter.
Anze Kopitar scored the lone goal for the Kings and backup Jonathan Bernier was tagged for all three goals on 36 shots in defeat.
"It was definitely a disappointing start for us," Kings head coach Darryl Sutter said. "Our focus was not to get behind and to try to match their energy early."
The Red Wings have outscored the Kings 12-3 in taking the first two of four meetings this year. Detroit has won three of the past four overall and snapped a three-game slide at home to Los Angeles with an 8-2 win on Dec. 17.