Preview: Nashville Predators
This is the first of three meetings between Los Angeles and Nashville this season. After tonight, the two teams will meet on Thursday, February 7 at Bridgestone Arena and on Monday, March 4 at Staples Center.
Last year, the Kings finished 3-1-0 against the Predators, going 2-0-0 at home and 1-1-0 on the road. Jonathan Bernier started both games at home, while Jonathan Quick started both of the road games.
Though Darryl Sutter did not reveal his starting goaltender specifically at the morning skate, it is presumed that Jonathan Quick will make his sixth consecutive start to open the season.
Neither Quick nor Nashville’s Pekka Rinne – both Vezina finalists a season ago – have posted particularly strong numbers in these teams’ head to head matchups. Quick is 1-4-1 in his career against the Predators with a 3.17 goals against average and .888 save percentage, while Rinne is 5-5-0 in his career against the Kings with a 3.14 goals against average and .884 save percentage.
Though the sample size remains small, Nashville has struggled to find the back of the net early in the season. Averaging 1.67 goals per game, they are tied with Colorado and Florida for the lowest goals-per-game mark in the NHL. To complicate matters, Patric Hornqvist – who has seven goals in 14 career games against Los Angeles and led the team with 27 goals a season ago – sprained his knee while battling for a loose puck against Anaheim last Saturday and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks, per Josh Cooper of The Tennessean. Shea Weber, who signed for 14 years and 110 million dollars after the Predators matched Philadelphia’s offer sheet over the summer, has been held without a point and is a minus-one through the first six games of the season. With Ryan Suter’s free agency departure to Minnesota, Weber has seen the majority of his time paired alongside Swiss national Roman Josi.
Nashville currently ranks last in the NHL with 23.2 shots per game.
Anze Kopitar, on how to find success against a team that has responsible, two-way forwards:
“I think just making strong play through the neutral zone. If you turn the puck over in the neutral zone or on the blue lines, it’s tough to get any O-zone time, and you’re pretty much hanksing the game for the most part. So you just want to make sure you make strong plays.”
Kopitar, on Weber:
“In the defensive zone, definitely his shot is his strength, so you want to make sure you’re in his lane the whole time and try to prohibit the puck to go to him. Other than that, it’s really just play…It’s just again, playing our game and focusing on us.”
Darryl Sutter, on how to play against a team with two-way forwards that don’t offer you much space:
“Match up against their veteran centermen. Three guys that really take care of both ends of the ice, and then they’re really smart players in terms of the neutral zone being quarterbacks, so we’ve got to match up against those three guys, and then obviously awareness on their two defensemen that shoot the puck a lot.”
Drew Doughty, on Shea Weber:
“He’s just an all-around defenseman. He’s got the big shot, so the offense kind of comes from his big shot. He’s a good puck mover, physical in his D-zone. He’s a situational player, plays in every single situation. He’s definitely someone I’ve looked up to since I played with him a few years back.”
Nashville coach Barry Trotz, on the developing chemistry between Weber and Josi:
“I think its coming. You look at Suter and Weber were together for seven years, maybe eight. One year in the minors, as well. It’s coming around pretty good, but at the same time, it’s still a work in progress. We’ve still got that improvement foundation that we want to get with them.”
Trotz, on Long Beach native and 2007 first round draft pick Jonathon Blum, who is yet to appear in a game this season:
“He’s worked really hard in the off-season. Jon – his biggest improvement has been the work that he’s putting in in the off-season. He’s still an intelligent player. He’s still got a good stick. He does all the things that Jon Blum has always done. He’s just made a bigger commitment in the offseason to get a little bit stronger and faster. He’s always got the good hockey sense and all the good skills and that. He’s just worked on that other end to get his strength level and power level up. I’m happy with him. He’s worked hard every day with [strength and conditioning coach] David Good, and he’s worked hard every day on the ice with our coaches and the drills and that stuff. I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit, and actually a couple times was very close to being put in the lineup.”
KINGS PROJECTED LINES:
Brown – Kopitar – Williams
Clifford – Richards – Carter
Gagne – Stoll – Lewis
King – Fraser – Nolan
Scuderi – Doughty
Voynov – Martinez
Drewiske – Muzzin