(Sports Network) - The Red Wings' Jimmy Howard received a two-year contract extension on Monday, but if he had waited until after tonight's game versus the Ducks he might have been able to ask for a bit more money. Howard should get a chance to shut out Anaheim for the third time this season and lead Detroit to a season-series sweep and seventh straight road victory Wednesday night at the Honda Center.
The 26-year-old Howard signed a two-year, $4.5 million extension with the Red Wings just hours before locking down his NHL-leading 31st victory of the season, a 7-4 triumph over the Kings. The netminder gave up the game's first goal, but Detroit countered with seven in a row before Los Angeles found the back of the net three times in the contest's final 7:34.
Howard ended with 35 saves, Drew Miller scored twice and both Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk scored on the power play for the Red Wings, who have won seven of their last nine overall and six straight on the road. Detroit plays the third contest of a five-game road trip tonight and the Central Division leaders are just five points back of the NHL-leading Canucks.
"With eight minutes left we stopped playing ... but good two points for us and we can move on in the trip," said Detroit head coach Mike Babcock. Babcock will have Johan Franzen back in the lineup this evening after Detroit's leading goal-scorer missed Sunday's game to be at home with his wife following the birth of the couple's first child. Perhaps Franzen will return with a clearer head as he hasn't scored in 12 straight games and not since a five-goal outburst on Feb. 2 versus the Senators. The forward has 26 goals on the season.
Defenseman Brian Rafalski is likely to miss a third straight game tonight due to back spasms, but the Red Wings might be alright at the blue line given that both of Howard's shutouts this year have come versus Anaheim. Howard's season began with a 21-save blanking in Detroit on Oct. 8 versus the Ducks and he stopped all 41 shots faced when the clubs met in Anaheim on Dec. 3. Howard is 5-2-0 with a 2.30 goals-against average in his career versus the Ducks.
That December win was just Detroit's third in its last nine at the Honda Center, but it has taken eight of the last 10 meetings overall.
The Ducks are trying to string together consecutive victories after halting a five-game losing streak with Sunday's 3-2 win over the Avalanche. Anaheim is three points back of a playoff spot in the West.
Brandon McMillan scored the game-winner in the third period, Ryan Getzlaf scored and Todd Marchant potted his first goal since March 17 of last year. Dan Ellis made his second start since being acquired from Tampa Bay on Thursday and made 22 saves for his first win with Anaheim, but it didn't come without a close call. Ellis nearly gave up a game-tying goal as time expired, but Colorado's Milan Hejduk was stopped by the post on an odd-angle shot.
"The last shot I didn't see at all," Ellis said. "I was down trying to cover everything low and on that post. All of a sudden the puck came out of nowhere and hit me on the side of the head. I heard it hit a post. I was just praying that it hit the right post. Thank God it stayed out."
Ellis is 2-4-1 with a 2.98 GAA versus Detroit.
The Ducks made a pair of trades before Monday's deadline, dealing center Maxim Lapierre and a minor league forward to Vancouver for minor leaguer Joel Perrault and a third-round pick. Anaheim then acquired forward Brad Winchester from the Blues for another third-round pick.
The 29-year-old Winchester posted nine goals and five assists in 57 games this season with St. Louis, adding 86 penalty minutes. Anaheim also snapped a four-game home losing streak and is 1-1-1 on a season- long seven-game homestand. Leading scorer Corey Perry is questionable for tonight after suffering a lower-body injury in practice on Tuesday. He is tops on the Ducks with 31 goals and 68 points.