NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 27: Jonathan Quick #32 of the Los Angeles Kings watches as Sergei Kostitsyn #74 and David Legwand #11 of the Nashville Predators celebrate scoring a goal at the Bridgestone Arena on February 27, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
We've got another late night of Nashville Predators hockey on our hands as the Preds skate tonight at the Staples Center against the Los Angeles Kings (9:30 p.m. Central on FS-TN). So far this season, the Predators are 1-2-0 against L.A.; can they even things up against a team which has found new life after their big trade for Jeff Carter?
Let's find out...
Los Angeles Kings
Winners of six out of their last eight games, the Kings are making a strong push for one of the final Western Conference playoff spots. Right now, they are one point back of the Coyotes and Avalanche for 7th & 8th, but they have the benefit of more games remaining (1 more than Phoenix, 2 more than Colorado). Out of the five teams vying for those two playoff berths, the Kings are perhaps the hottest right now.
They are coming off a victory at Anaheim last night, so the Predators will benefit from facing a team with tired legs.
L.A. Kings Last 5 Games
The guy being credited with sparking that turnaround is Jeff Carter, who has potted five goals in his 10 games as a King so far. Some would argue that getting rid of defenseman Jack Johnson was just as important, though!
|2011 - Jeff Carter||49||20||12||32||-12||14||10||0||2||161||12.4|
Make sure to check Jewels From The Crown later today for their take on tonight's game.
The hope is that Kevin Klein is ready to play again, having been out since February 25th with a mysterious "upper body injury" (which, for no particular reason, I'm going to pretend is an infected carbunkle). The third defense pairing has looked, well, a bit scary at times, and Klein's return can either shore up that pair directly, or indirectly if slots into the 2nd pair and pushes someone else down.
Up front, our fears about the status of Paul Gaustad have been somewhat alleviated, with reports that he should only miss "2 or 3 games", rather than anything worse. The way he left Thursday's game at San Jose holding his wrist, it brought back memories of Denis Grebeshkov, who was picked up for the playoff drive in 2010 only to be struck down by injury and appear in only 4 regular season games (2 playoff) with Nashville.
The Predator to watch tonight? I'm going with Patric Hornqvist. He's not only been chipping in well lately, but he boasts 7 goals in 13 career games against L.A., his 2nd-most against any team (Columbus is first). Recall that when the Preds and Kings skated in Nashville on March 6, he potted two goals in that 5-4 loss:
|2011 - Patric Hornqvist||64||22||12||34||+4||24||6||0||3||177||12.4|
So once again, fire up the late-night caffeine and join us for a 9:30 start! At least this is the last one of the regular season...