Red Wings, Kings aim for first win after opening losses

After season-opening losses in overtime by identical 3-2 scores, the Los Angeles Kings and the Detroit Red Wings meet Sunday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The Kings were beaten by the San Jose Sharks on Friday night at the Staples Center in the debut of right winger Ilya Kovalchuk. He returned to the NHL after playing in Russia for five seasons, signing a three-year, $18.75 million contract during the summer.

Kovalchuk played 20:15, including 5:36 on the power play, and was credited with two shots on goal, three attempts that were blocked, and one shot that missed the net. He played on a line with center Anze Kopitar and left winger Alex Iafallo.

“We’ve got to be better with the tools we’ve got,” Kovalchuk told the Los Angeles Times after the game. “We’ve got to be better than what we’re at right now.”

Especially on the power play, as the Kings went 0 of 5.

“Sometimes we can’t even get in the zone; it’s unacceptable,” Kovalchuk said. “(Coach) John (Stevens) put us out there. He believed in our skill and our willingness to do the right things, and we have to do it to be able to win.”

But Kopitar sees signs of hope.

“I think we should be encouraged from this game,” he said. “Obviously there is some stuff to work on, but it’s the first game of the season, so not everything is going to be perfect.”

Detroit, which was outshot 39-20 on Thursday night by the Columbus Blue Jackets at Little Caesars Arena, needs to spend more time in the offensive zone, according to coach Jeff Blashill.

“Too much time in D-zone coverage, so I thought the ice got tilted too much the wrong way,” Blashill said on www.mlive.com. “When you’re in D-zone coverage, it’s hard to establish a forecheck because you’re getting it in and changing.

“We got to be able to get it out smoother than that, so as a result you’re defending most of the time.”

Blashill also said the Red Wings passed up too many opportunities to get shots off.

“The other thing that hurt us is we had chances to shoot pucks and create chaos, which would have created a little more O-zone We didn’t shoot enough pucks,” Blashill said.

Detroit featured six rookies in its opening night lineup, five of whom made their NHL debuts.

It was the first NHL game for defensemen Dennis Cholowski, 20; Libor Sulak, 24; and Filip Hronek, 20; winger Michael Rasmussen, 19, and center Christoffer Ehn, 22, and the sixth NHL game for defenseman Joe Hicketts, 22.

The four defensemen were particularly impressive.

Cholowski scored his first NHL goal, playing on the top defense pairing with Danny DeKeyser and logging 19:51 of ice time. Sulak played 18:26, Hronek 16:03 and Hicketts 18:43.

“They did good. They did really well in front of me,” said Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard, who made 38 saves. “Obviously they’re young, there’s going to be times where mistakes happen, but for the most part I thought they did a really good job.”

Hronek and Hicketts were recalled from AHL Grand Rapids on Wednesday because of injuries to veteran defensemen Jonathan Ericsson (upper body) and Niklas Kronwall (unknown).

Detroit plays Monday night at Anaheim. Ericsson is expected to miss both road games. The latest plan was for Kronwall to play in one of the games.