Playing indoors or outdoors doesn’t seem to matter much for the surging Los Angeles Kings, who aren’t showing any signs of slowing down.
The Kings return home looking to extend their season-best winning streak to eight Tuesday night against the visiting Detroit Red Wings, who have dominated the series over the years.
Los Angeles (28-18-12) has followed a three-game losing streak with seven consecutive victories, during which it’s limited opponents to 13 goals. The defending Stanley Cup champs, who won eight in a row last Feb. 6-March 10, are starting to look like contenders after an up-and-down first few months.
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"There has never ever been any doubt within this room," captain Dustin Brown told the league’s official website. "I think a lot of the doubt and a lot of the ‘Are we going to make the playoffs’ was coming from outside the room. In saying that, where we are now, we still have a lot of work to do. We’ve put ourselves in a better situation coming down the stretch, but there’s still a lot of hockey to be played."
The Kings climbed into a tie with San Jose and Calgary for third place in the Pacific Division after getting by the Sharks 2-1 in Saturday’s outdoor game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Marian Gaborik scored the go-ahead goal 4:04 into the third period and Jonathan Quick finished with 31 saves.
"Right now we are kind of where we want to be, where we do have a playoff spot. But we obviously want to make it a little deeper," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves with this winning streak. Yeah it’s nice to be in a playoff spot, but 20-something games left, so lots of work."
The Kings could have trouble extending their run against the Red Wings, who have won the last four meetings by a combined 13-6 score and 31 of the last 40 in the series. Detroit took this season’s first showdown 5-2 at home Oct. 31, as Pavel Datsyuk and Gustav Nyquist each had two goals and an assist.
Quick stopped 30 of 34 shots that night, dropping to 1-7-1 with a 3.44 goals-against average in his last nine games in the series. Quick’s lifetime 3.12 GAA against Detroit is his highest against any team he’s faced more than seven times.
In the midst of a six-game road trip, the Red Wings (33-14-11) have gone beyond regulation in each of the first three games after falling apart in Monday’s 4-3 shootout loss at Anaheim. Detroit, which was coming off Wednesday’s 3-2 shootout win at Chicago and Saturday’s 7-6 overtime victory at Dallas, took a 2-0 lead into the third period before surrendering three goals over a four-minute span of the third period and salvaged a point when Riley Sheahan tallied with 3:51 left.
"We’ve got to be able to keep our composure a little bit better than that," said defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who had two assists.
Datsyuk scored the game’s first two goals Monday, giving him six and four assists over a five-game stretch.
Jimmy Howard finished with 22 saves, dropping to 1-1-2 with a 3.16 GAA over five starts since returning from a groin injury. Jonas Gustavsson is expected to be between the pipes Tuesday for his first start since Nov. 5.
The Red Wings were surely missing Henrik Zetterberg, who could be out again due to a possible head injury suffered against the Stars. Zetterberg is tied with Datsyuk for the team lead with 49 points, and he’s notched 35 in his last 33 games against Los Angeles.