Though the Predators pieced together more inspired efforts the past two games in California, they only buried one of their numerous scoring chances against the Ducks and Sharks. If they can just get one early goal tonight against the Los Angeles Kings at 9:30 p.m. CT, the offensive floodgates are sure to open up, helping the team get back in the win column.
“I could collectively take the first periods against Anaheim and San Jose, and they might be the best two periods of hockey we have maybe played in five years,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “But, we didn’t get the result and that might be the only frustration that might set in.”
In Nashville’s current five-game losing streak, it has righted the ship defensively, allowing just four five-on-five goals in the past two contests, but can’t break through on the other side of the ice. Ryan Suter’s goal at 2:24 of the third period against Anaheim Wednesday is the Preds lone goal since hitting the road a week ago. Prior to that, they had averaged nearly three-and-a-half goals a game in the first five contests of the season.
“We’ve played pretty well, and you have to stay diligent and on-point with how you play,” Trotz said. “If someone had magic dust and someone asked me what I wanted for this team it would be for them to not change how they are playing because results will happen.”
One of the bright spots for the Predators during the current slump has been an effective penalty killing squad, which has killed 29-33 man-advantage opportunities against (87.9%), good for sixth in the league. The contingent will be put to the test against the Kings, whose power play is clicking at 22.2 percent, also sixth best in the NHL. The unit is even better in the friendly confines of the Staples Center, posting a 27.3-percent mark which sits third in the league.
Goals have not been an issue for Los Angeles this year – despite only a 3-6-0 record, it has the NHL’s goals leader in Mike Cammalleri (8), and a sophomore in Anze Kopitar whose 12 points (4g-8a) places him tied for fifth in the league with Calgary’s Jarome Iginla. Playing defense, on the other hand, has not been a strongpoint for the Kings – they are 28th in the 30-team league in goals against, averaging 3.96 against.
“It is no different than what you have to do against Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau – it is taking away time and space" Trotz said. "You have to check well and can’t give them room to operate. If we can do the same things we did against San Jose that we do against these younger guys that have talent but less size, we will be fine. We have to make the high-skilled plays difficult.”
For the Predators, it will be a back-to-basics game. Simplify their game, and hope one goal leads to another. Though a tally from anyone on the roster would be welcomed, the coaching staff will be leaning on the top two scoring lines to kick-start things. David Legwand has just one assist since his hat-trick performance in Game 2. J.P. Dumont has been quiet as well, being held scoreless in four of the five losses.
“Anytime you think you aren’t having success that is when doubt creeps in," Trotz said. "This team is actually pretty confident for one that hasn’t won in five games. They are confident we are doing the right things when we play and people aren’t cutting corners.”
The contest will once again be available in high definition on FSN South in addition to airing on the radio at WGFX 104.5 The Zone.
TV Alternates: Dish Network 446, Direct TV 664
Tonight’s Storylines: Nashville took three of four games from the Kings last season, outscoring Los Angeles 18-8 in the process. The Preds hold a 5-2-1 advantage in the series since the start of the 2005-06 season. The next matchup between the two teams comes Dec. 22 at the Sommet Center… Jason Arnott paces the Preds in points (3g-4a-7pts.) while Martin Erat holds the team lead in assists with six… J.P. Dumont (3g-3a) and Alexander Radulov (1g-5a) led all Predators against the Kings in 2006-07 with six points, while Chris Mason posted a 3-0-0 record with a 1.35 goals against average and .952 save percentage… Dan Hamhuis leads the team in average time on ice (23:20), while Radek Bonk and Jed Ortmeyer pace the team in plus/minus rating (+2)…Greg Zanon ranks in the top 25 in the league in both blocked shots (20) and hits (20)…Scott Nichol is ranked 14th in the league in faceoff percentage among players who have taken more than 10 draws (61.8%), and Jason Arnott is 14th among those who have taken more than 100 faceoffs (54.8%)… Shea Weber (knee) and Steve Sullivan (back) are on injured reserve for Nashville.