The Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators battle for fifth place in the Western Conference tonight at the Bridgestone Arena. The Kings lost to the Wild just last night, while the Predators defeated the Panthers in overtime. The Predators lead the Kings by four points for fifth, so a win tonight would all but assure the Kings don't catch Nashville with six games remaining. Nashville can't afford to ease up on the throttle, as you have to think a first round date with Phoenix or Vancouver is more appealing than Chicago or San Jose.
Keep in mind that a win tonight and a Calgary loss tomorrow means its time for you to call your ticket rep and reserve some good seats this postseason.
After the jump is your analysis, and news that we'll face the Kings' AHL goalie...
The win over Florida was admittedly somewhat awkward. It certainly wasn't pretty, and the Preds relied on some players they normally don't for offense without Jason Arnott and Martin Erat. David Legwand, as you may have heard, busted out of his goal scoring slump, and Patric Hornqvist became the 4th 30 goal scorer in team history. 'Horn Dog' needs 4 goals in 5 games to break Arnott's record.
The special teams have been a mixed bag. The penalty kill has looked much, much better in the last week, but the power play has once again begun looking as if Nashville is trying to set up without an extra man. That, obviously, needs to be dealt with tonight against a highly skilled Kings team.
It sounds like Joel Ward is good to go tonight, but considering David Legwand's success with Colin Wilson, I'm not sure if Trotz reunites his shutdown line or not.
Dan Ellis played last night (surprisingly well, in fact), so there's little doubt that Barry Trotz returns to the man who has been arguably the league's hottest goalie since the Olympic break.
#35 / Goalie / Nashville Predators
Nov 03, 1982
|2009 - Pekka Rinne||53||2944||29||14||125||2.55||1383||1258||.910||7|
From what I was able to put together listening to the radio broadcast of last night's game, Martin Erat will not play tonight but probably Thursday, while there's no real timetable on Jason Arnott's return. Joel Ward is probable, which will be a welcome sight, and Denis Grebeshkov is still out with a lower body injury.
The Kings are playing a particularly bad stretch of hockey, are on a three game losing streak, and are just five points from missing the playoffs altogether. A little surprising considering their early form, but hey, when you go ahead and put playoff tickets on sale...I'm just sayin'...Anyway, they can't be pleased with playing the Predators in the middle of this downturn, because they're 0-6-1 against Nashville since early 2008. A win tonight and they're back in the conversation for fifth, so there shouldn't be any shortage of motivation.
According to Pete Weber on the radio last night, the Kings will be going with their AHL star tonight since Jonathan Quick played in Minnesota last night. Don't underestimate him, though, he's considered one of the team's top prospects.
#45 / Goalie / Los Angeles Kings
Aug 07, 1988
|2009 - Jonathan Bernier||1||65||1||0||1||0.92||30||29||.967||0|
Los Angeles Kings Injuries
|Player||Injury Type||Injury Date|
Out (IR / Out / Suspended / Physically unvailable)
|Player||Injury Type||Injury Date|
As mentioned above, there's really no excuse for either team to not come to play tonight. I can't imagine anything short of playoff style hockey, much like Saturday's game against Detroit. Yes, Nashville has thoroughly dominated LA the past two years, but you can throw that out the window tonight. The Kings are probably hot and bothered after face-planting against Minnesota, and with a legitimately awesome power play, the Predators could be in for a long night, providing Jonathan Bernier keeps the Kings in the game. Ever have one of those times when you wake up on game day and just have a bad feeling? Kings 3, Preds 2.