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The banged-up Detroit Red Wings are in the midst of their worst stretch since the season's first month and don't return home until next week, but Anaheim may be a hospitable enough venue to get them back on track.
The Red Wings seek to avoid a fifth loss in six games and third straight on their four-game trip when they visit a slumping and demoralized group of Ducks on Wednesday night.
Jockeying for position in the middle of the Western Conference playoff race with less than a month remaining in the regular season, Detroit (44-23-3) hasn't picked the best time to go into a tailspin. The Red Wings are 1-4-0 in their last five games, their worst stretch of that length since a season-high six-game losing streak Oct. 22-Nov. 3.
That skid ended Nov. 5 with a 5-0 home victory over the Ducks. Detroit has defeated Anaheim (29-30-11) twice more since, and with another win Wednesday would sweep the season series for the first time since 2000-01. The Red Wings are 6-0-1 against Anaheim since the start of last season, outscoring the Ducks 24-9 in those contests.
Detroit doesn't appear able to dominate anybody at the moment. Currently playing without injured stars Nicklas Lidstrom (ankle) and Pavel Datsyuk (knee surgery), the Wings followed Saturday's 3-2 loss at Nashville with a 5-2 defeat Tuesday at Los Angeles.
Jimmy Howard did return after missing three games with a groin injury, but stopped only 22 of 26 shots as Detroit - currently fourth in the West - dropped to 16-19-1 on the road, where it has lost six of its last seven. The Red Wings will play seven of their final 10 games at home, but must first play this contest and visit San Jose on Saturday.
"It was my first game back in a week and a half, so I've just got to continue to work hard in practice and get the rhythm back out there," Howard said. "I thought the game was extremely fast in front of me, so I'm going to have to find a way to slow it down until I get back to game speed."
While Detroit may be slumping, the Ducks would gladly switch places. Drifting increasingly further out of the playoff hunt, Anaheim is trying to avoid dropping four in a row for the first time since December.
The Ducks have won 11 of 14 at home, but they came up with only one point on their crucial three-game trip. They took Colorado to overtime Monday night, but fell 3-2 when Gabriel Landeskog scored 1:52 into the extra session.
"This was our season," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We had to win this game."
Francois Beauchemin and Teemu Selanne had the goals for the Ducks. Selanne's power-play tally moved him ahead of Jari Kurri for 19th on the NHL's all-time list with 1,399 points.
"That doesn't really make me happy right now," Selanne said. "The win was the only goal we had. We couldn't do it."
Ducks star Corey Perry was sidelined with a sore right shoulder, ending his string of 272 straight games. His status for Wednesday is uncertain.
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