Kings blog (partially): Battle of California
Can the Predators repeat the California sweep they completed back in November? That would certainly bode well for their playoff chances, but it's a daunting task due to the continuing injury trouble they've had down the middle of the lineup. It's going to be a late start (9:30 Nashville time), but join us in the game thread, you die-hards!
Questions to be answered: (1) Can the Preds, with their 13-18-2 road record, continue to charge in the playoff race? (2) Can the Nashville penalty killing continue its stellar play of late, killing 31 of the last 32 power plays? (3) Will Barry Trotz combine Steve Sullivan and J.P. Dumont on a line tonight? They played less than a minute together against Phoenix, but combined to create the winning goal.
Predators coming in: A workmanlike, if unspectacular 2-0 win in Phoenix on Saturday reversed a three-game losing streak by Nashville. Pekka Rinne returned to the net with an 18-save shutout, setting a new franchise mark with his 7th goose-egg this season.
Kings coming in: Los Angeles has won three straight on home ice, before dropping both parts of a two-game road trip to Vancouver and San Jose. With 68 points, the Kings are just five points out of a playoff spot, but there are simply too many teams ahead of them to believe they've got a serious shot. That, and the fact that 10 of their final 14 games are on the road.
Predators to watch:The empty-netter that iced Saturday's win in Phoenix was David Legwand's 20th goal of the season, making this the 2nd time in his career that he has achieved that mark. J.P. Dumont has scored in consecutive games, and will continue to be relied upon until Jason Arnott returns to action. Ryan Suter has a six-game point streak working (2 goals, 4 assists).
Kings to watch: Anze Kopitar (5G, 4A in last 7 games) and Alexander Frolov (2G, 6A in last 6) are the main weapons up front, complemented by perennial Penalty Plus/Minus leader Dustin Brown. Nobody in the NHL forces opponents into taking penalties like Brown, so Nashville will need to be disciplined, or rely heavily on their top-notch penalty kill. Drew Doughty is a sensational rookie on the Los Angeles blueline.
Here's a look at the two teams in the main statistical categories, along with overall NHL rank:
It's a bit surprising to see how the Kings rank defensively, as the typical take on this team has been that the blueliners are substandard (outside of the young phenom Doughty) and the goaltending miserable. Is it a case of the Kings running a system whereby the forwards stay home to help out, which leads to the below-average offensive totals? For a team with the young talented forwards that L.A. boasts, you'd expect more goal-scoring.
Finally, let's take a look at who draws the penalties, and who takes them for each team (data as of March 16):
|Nashville||Penalties Drawn||Los Angeles||Penalties Drawn|
|Player||Draws||Fouls||Pen +/-||Player||Draws||Fouls||Pen +/-|
|Jordin Tootoo||47||42||+5||Dustin Brown||71||19||+52|
|Martin Erat||24||24||0||Anze Kopitar||27||6||+21|
|Ryan Jones||23||10||+13||Raitis Ivanans||24||40||-16|
|Dan Hamhuis||21||24||-3||Matt Greene||24||40||-19|
|Joel Ward||20||11||+9||Wayne Simmonds||20||18||+2|
|Vern Fiddler||20||9||+11||Alexander Frolov||18||12||+6|
|Penalties Taken||Penalties Taken|
|Jordin Tootoo||47||42||+5||Raitis Ivanans||24||40||-16|
|Ryan Suter||16||34||-18||Matt Greene||24||40||-19|
|Shea Weber||14||32||-18||Denis Guathier||12||29||-17|
|Greg de Vries||6||27||-21||Kyle Quincy||12||27||-15|
|Martin Erat||24||24||0||Jarret Stoll||13||24||-11|
|Dan Hamhuis||21||24||-3||Drew Doughty||11||24||-13|
The big story here is that L.A. traded away Patrick O'Sullivan at the trading deadline; O'Sullivan is currently 3rd in the league with a +26 rating. For Nashville, Vern Fiddler has surprisingly taken a couple bad tripping calls in the last two games. Fids is normally a pretty disciplined defensive player, and actually draws more calls than one might expect.