The Nashville Predators are closing out this West Coast road trip in Los Angeles. While the Preds have lost some ground in the standings over the last few days, both they and the Los Angeles Kings are still close to the tops of their respective divisions.
Predators-Kings games have traditionally been tight—you have to go back to the lockout-shortened 2013 season to find a year when only one of the three games had a one-goal differential. Of the last ten games these two teams have played, seven have gone to overtime and an eighth was also resolved by a single goal.
On their most recent trip to the Staples Center, this past November, the Preds had a 3-0 lead at the start of the third period and ended up winning 4-3 in overtime.
The Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings are second in the Pacific Division right now. They’ve been getting very good goaltending from Jonathan Quick and fantastic goaltending from backup Darcy Kuemper. Their new coaching staff has changed their strategy on offense, but they’re still only 13th in the league in goals scored—a lot of their excellent record is thanks to their league-fewest goals allowed.
This is not the Corsi juggernaut of yesteryear. This Kings team doesn’t crush its opponents with relentless puck possession. They take and allow shots less often than league average, which is exactly what everyone wants in a California night game. They also have a good power play, which is not what the Predators want to run into, and a bad penalty kill.
Long-time Preds nemesis Jeff Carter is still on IR after his offseason ankle surgery, and they’re also missing depth defenseman Christian Folin. Other than that, it looks like it’ll probably be more or less the same cast of characters we saw in November, including the amazing return of 2011 Dustin Brown.
Anže Kopitar is leading the team with 43 points, and he and Tyler Toffoli are tied for the team lead with 17 goals each. Both of these players are likely to make an impact offensively. Drew Doughty is logging over 27 minutes a game, so expect to see a lot of him too.
The Nashville Predators
It’s been a rough few games. After a magnificent run through November and early December, the Predators have lost six of their last eight games. They have also lost Filip Forsberg for another three to five weeks.
The Kevin Fiala–Kyle Turris–Craig Smith line has been great, but the Predators will need them to be even better. Their play against the Coyotes was fantastic, but they have a combined one point in the three games since Forsberg’s injury and have only combined for two points in the five games since Forsberg was taken off of Ryan Johansen’s line.
Also, the penalty troubles continue. While the Predators might have finally stopped taking six-plus minor penalties a game, they haven’t managed to stop taking bad, stupid penalties. They gave up the gamewinning goal against the Golden Knights on Tuesday on the penalty kill for an awful line change, and gave up a very late game-tying goal against the Coyotes on Thursday when key penalty killer Austin Watson got overprotective of one of his linemates away from the play. This has to end.
In some good news, not only is Ryan Ellis back, but we’ve finally gotten the Mattias Ekholm–P.K. Subban reunion most of us have been wishing for all year. With a defense corps that’s steadying itself out, maybe that will help boost the offense, as well as making the goalies’ jobs easier.
Reasons to Watch
- The LA Kings are one of the league’s worst second-period teams this year, and the Nashville Predators are one of the league’s best. That’s a matchup that could lead to some fireworks.
- Fiala is due for a goal. He and his linemates have been playing very well, and at some point soon that’s going to pay off.
- Will Calle Järnkrok’s helmet stay on his head this time?
Throwback Saturday to the most spectacular of Jarnkrok's helmet losses in LA. pic.twitter.com/BLuhumIKCp— Jim Diamond (@diamondhockey) November 5, 2017
Sights and Sounds
Puck drop is at 9:30 PM Central. Get your caffeine and settle in to watch/skip the caffeine and set your DVR to record the game on FS-TN, or listen on 102.5 The Game.