(Sports Network) - Once a front-runner in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Kings face a long road back to the top. They continue that quest tonight against the conference's current leader, the Detroit Red Wings, at the Staples Center. The Kings established themselves as early contenders with a 12-3-0 start, but went on to lose seven of their next eight games before halting a four-game slide on Thursday with a 3-2 victory over the Panthers.
Anze Kopitar had the game-winner with 2:43 left in regulation, his third goal in five games and ninth of the season. "The whole team was good but the best players came through in the end. It was great to see the winning goal, seeing Kopitar finish it off," Kings head coach Terry Murray said. Jarret Stoll and Peter Harrold also tallied for the Kings, who are 9-2-0 at home this season. Jonathan Quick got the win with 24 saves as his club kicked off a four-game homestand.
Quick will get the call again tonight and is just 2-5-0 with a 3.16 goals- against average in his career versus the Red Wings. He'll hope to reverse that trend tonight as the Kings aim for back-to-back wins for the first time since Nov. 11-13, the final two victories of a six-game win streak. Kopitar has a pair of goals and eight assists in 15 career games versus the Red Wings, who lead the Western Conference with 36 points and have won four straight as well as nine of their last 11 (9-1-1).
Detroit picked up another victory in Anaheim on Friday. After opening a three- game swing out west with Tuesday's triumph over San Jose, the Red Wings notched a 4-0 victory over the Ducks last night. Jimmy Howard made a season-high 41 saves for his second shutout of the season. Both have come versus the Ducks and the netminder picked up his fifth career whitewash.
"I thought our goalie was real good," said Detroit head coach Mike Babcock. "I didn't think we were nearly as good as we have been, yet we still did a lot of good things and scored some good goals with some traffic in front." Johan Franzen, Tomas Holmstrom, Dan Cleary and Valtteri Filppula scored for the Red Wings, while Henrik Zetterberg had an assist for his 500th career point.
Detroit is 7-3-0 on the road this season and is expected to have veterans Kris Draper and Chris Osgood in the lineup tonight. Draper has yet to play this season due to a groin injury and sports hernia, while Osgood hasn't appeared in a game since Oct. 30 due to a groin pull. He will get the start tonight over Howard and is 19-10-0 with four ties and a 2.29 GAA in his career versus the Kings.
These two clubs split four meetings last year, but the Red Wings have won six of eight and 10 of the last 13 matchups. Detroit has won five of its last six at Los Angeles.