Can the Nashville Predators reverse a 3-game losing streak against the league-leading Los Angeles Kings? Hey, nothing focuses the attention of a team than a major challenge. The Kings are 5-0 on home ice so far, and welcomed star defenseman Drew Doughty back into their lineup by shutting out the Tampa Bay Lightning 1-0 Thursday night.
Follow after the jump as we take a look at tonight's matchup. It's a 9:00 Central start, with no TV coverage in Nashville. If you have the Center Ice package, however, it does look like at least a standard-definition feed will be available (DirecTV says it will be on channel 784, but not the HD equivalent 784-1). While you're reading, be sure to check out the latest 303:30 podcast, which features Matt Reitz, an L.A. blogger at View From My Seats...
Kevin Klein will have likely to handle one of hockey's most rugged crease-crashers, Ryan Smyth. "Captain Canada" will be playing his 1,000th NHL game tonight, and will give Klein all he can handle as he thunders down the left wing.
Injuries have really taken their toll as the Preds have faltered over their last three contests, getting outscored by a total of 12-5 against St. Louis, Detroit, and then Phoenix. The return of Marcel Goc restores a bit of stability to the center spot, and allows Colin Wilson to return to the wing. From there, he can concentrate more on generating scoring chances, which are sorely needed on the league's 29th-ranked attack.
The Preds will celebrate a milestone of their own as Barry Trotz ties Toe Blake for 5th place on the all-time list of games coached with a single franchise, at 914.
Can Pekka rebound from a poor effort Wednesday night at Phoenix? Barry Trotz may have glossed over some of the goals, but there were many other plays where he got caught way out of his crease, and his defense bailed him out. The real test of a #1 goalie is whether he can put a game like that behind him quickly, so keep an eye on big #35 tonight:
|2010 - Pekka Rinne||7||407||2||3||18||2.65||223||205||.919||1|
We don't expect any changes from what we saw against the Coyotes, so...
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings are pretty much the darlings of the Western Conference this year, the sexy pick to be the next Chicago Blackhawks-type breakthrough. They boast a dynamic group of forwards led by offensive dynamo Anze Kopitar and industrious workhorse Dustin Brown, whose ability to draw penalties is legendary. The disciplined Preds will need to be at their best to avoid giving the Kings excessive power play opportunities.
On the back end, Drew Doughty was a Norris Trophy finalist last season, and Jack Johnson has as many assists (8) as Shea Weber and Cody Franson combined. They've been complemented with the acquisition of Willie Mitchell as a free agent. Mitchell was Vancouver's top all-around defenseman before a concussion ended his season early last year, and he could ultimately prove to be the most pivotal free agent pickup in the Western Conference as a minute-chomping reliable presence back there.
Jonathan Quick shut out the high-flying Lightning on Thursday, and will presumably get the start tonight:
|2010 - Jonathan Quick||9||549||8||1||15||1.64||258||243||.942||1|
What do I look like, a fortune teller?