Howard, Red Wings battle Kings in LA

The return of All-Star goaltender Jimmy Howard couldn't come soon enough for the Red Wings.

Howard will try to help Detroit avoid a fourth loss in five games tonight in a road meeting with the playoff-hopeful Los Angeles Kings.

Howard has missed the past three games with a strained groin, an injury suffered not long after the netminder missed eight games in February with a finger injury. Despite the missed time, Howard still ranks third in the NHL with 33 victories.

"It could have been a lot worse than it was," Howard told Detroit's website of his recent injury. "The way it happened, and me not realizing how or when it happened, and it just gradually coming on we caught something before it got too bad."

That's good news for the Red Wings, who are dealing with a host of other injuries. Detroit hopes to have both forwards Todd Bertuzzi and Pavel Datsyuk back this week, but captain Nicklas Lidstrom (right ankle) and fellow defensemen Jakub Kindl and Jonathan Ericsson remain out. Datsyuk has missed the past nine games following knee surgery, while Bertuzzi has sat out three straight with a groin issue.

Detroit lost for the sixth time in nine games on Saturday, dropping a 3-2 decision in Nashville. Justin Abdelkader and Drew Miller both scored and Joey MacDonald allowed all three goals on 20 shots.

The Red Wings now own just a two-point edge over the Predators for fourth place in the Western Conference and they trail the Central Division-leading Blues by six points.

Detroit dropped the opener of a four-game swing and has lost five of its past six as the guest. The club is 16-18-1 on the road this season compared to 28-4-2 at home.

Howard will aim to get the Red Wings on track away from Detroit and is 9-2-0 with a 2.23 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in 11 starts versus the Pacific Division this season. That includes a pair of wins over the Kings and Detroit has scored 16 goals in taking the first three of four scheduled regular-season meetings.

The Red Wings will try to sweep the four-game set tonight for the first time since 2008-09 and has won 13 of its last 16 trips to Los Angeles.

Defenseman Niklas Kronwall is pacing Detroit with five points versus the Kings this year, while Henrik Zetterberg and Datsyuk have three goals each. All told, 18 different Detroit players have logged a point versus Los Angeles this season.

That means the Kings could use another strong game from netminder Jonathan Quick, who came up big in Sunday's 3-2 shootout victory over Chicago. Quick made 35 saves through overtime, including a stop on Viktor Stalberg's third- period penalty shot, and then turned aside all six skaters he faced in the shootout.

Mike Richards finally won it for the Kings in the extra session, helping the club split its four-game road trip. Jeff Carter scored his 200th career goal and Slava Voynov also lit the lamp in regulation.

Los Angeles comes into this game tied for 11th in the Western Conference with 76 points, two back of idle Colorado for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Kings will use one of their two games in hand over the club tonight.

"They're going to be hard-fought games from here on out, just like this one tonight," said Quick.

Carter has logged four goals and one assist in eight games since being acquired from Columbus, while Dustin Brown had an assist on Sunday to give him 12 points over an eight-game point streak. That run is one shy of his career best set from Nov. 24-Dec. 10, 2007.