Kings (16-10-1) vs. Detroit Red Wings (19-6-3) at Joe Louis Arena, 4:30 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Say eh to Willie -- The blue line is expected to get a big lift with the return of veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell. He has been out since Nov. 6 with a broken left wrist, but began practicing last week and is reportedly ready to go against the Red Wings. Mitchell is a prototype stay-at-home defender who fits in well with offense-minded blue liners Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson or Alec Martinez. The Kings were 10-3-0 with Mitchell in the lineup.
2. A flaw in his game -- Kings goalkeeper Jonathan Quick has proved to be one of the finest net-minders in the NHL this season. It’s when he strays from the net that he looks like a fish out of water. He turned the puck over twice Saturday night after leaving the crease, leading to both Minnesota goals in regulation. The Kings ultimately lost in overtime, 3-2, ending their three-game winning streak.
3. Still low on juice -- The Kings’ power-play unit took another step back against the Wild, converting just one-of-nine man-advantage situations. They’ve now slid into a tie for 26th in that department, not where a playoff team should be. If this were a new issue it might be easier to spot the problem, but the Kings have been hurting on the power play all season and it’s putting a strain on their ability to move up in the standings.
4. Short memory -- It was just over a week ago that the Kings won their third straight game against the Red Wings, 3-2, in overtime at Staples Center, igniting Detroit’s first three-game losing streak since last February. The Red Wings have since won two straight, including an electrifying 4-2 victory Friday against Eastern Conference power Montreal. Things are going so well in Detroit, even the Lions won Sunday.
5. Datsyuk on a roll –- Pavel Datsyuk is officially on a roll. The 32-year-old Detroit center has seven points in the last three games and 36 for the season. At this rate, he’ll blow right past the 70 points he scored last season and should easily match the 97 he scored the year before. He has been especially productive on his home ice this season, totaling 24 points in 16 games.