Game 9 Preview: Los Angeles at Nashville
This is the second of three meetings between the Kings and Predators this season. Despite being outshot by a two-to-one margin in regulation and 24-14 overall, Nashville won 2-1 in a shootout at Staples Center on January 31. After tonight, the two teams will conclude the season series on Monday, March 4 in Los Angeles.
Lots more after the jump…
Though both goaltenders were Vezina Trophy candidates a season ago, neither Jonathan Quick nor Pekka Rinne have experienced a great deal of success in the teams’ head-to-head matchups. Quick has one win in seven career starts against the Predators, going 1-4-2 with a 2.83 goals against average and an .891 save percentage. Rinne is 6-5-0 lifetime against the Kings with a 2.91 GAA and .891 Sv%. Jonathan Bernier isn’t expected to start tonight, though he has a 6-1-0 career record against Nashville with a 2.00 GAA and .930 Sv%, along with one shutout.
Nashville is tied with Chicago for the fewest home games played in the NHL with two. This is the Predators’ first home game since opening the season with a pair of shootout losses to Columbus and St. Louis at Bridgestone Arena. Following tonight, they’ll travel to Minnesota for one game before returning home to face Chicago, San Jose, Phoenix and Anaheim.
The Predators recently returned from a seven-game, 16-day road trip that equaled the longest trip in franchise history. Following a 1-2-1 start to the trip, they eked out shootout wins in Los Angeles and San Jose before erupting for six goals in a 6-1 win at St. Louis in which four players recorded multiple points.
First line right wing Martin Erat, who has either led or tied for the team lead in scoring in each of the last two seasons, has been a phenomenal model of consistency in his NHL career. Selected by Nashville in the seventh round of the 1999 NHL Draft, Erat has finished with between 49 and 58 points in every season since 2003-04 and has amassed 695 regular season games in a Predators uniform. He currently leads the team with seven points (3-4=7) in eight games.
Defenseman Shea Weber, on the other hand, remains without a point nine games into the season after signing a 14-year, 110 million dollar contract extension over the summer. Leading 2011-12 goal scorer Patric Hornqvist, who has seven goals in 14 career games against the Kings, remains sidelined with a knee injury suffered on January 26 in Anaheim when he got tangled up with Ryan Getzlaf in a corner battle. He is progressing and may be on the verge of being classified as “day-to-day.”
The Predators are likely to utilize 11 forwards and seven defensemen after finding success with the approach late in the road trip. That means Long Beach-born and Rancho Santa Margarita-raised Jonathon Blum – who skated with Ontario Reign forward and Irvine native C.J. Stretch on the 2004-05 California Wave Midget AAA team – is likely to draw in for the third consecutive game. Blum had two assists in the win over St. Louis Tuesday night.
Los Angeles was 3-1-0 against Nashville in 2011-12 and outscored the Predators 14-11 in a season matchup that went against the two teams’ defensive tendencies. Justin Williams led the Kings in scoring with five points (2-3=5), while Dustin Penner (1-3=4) and Trevor Lewis (1-3=4) finished with four points in the head to head matchup.
Goals/Game: LAK – 21st / 2.38; NAS – 29th / 2.00
Goals Against/Game: LAK – 21st / 3.00; NAS – t-2nd / 2.00
Power Play: LAK – 25th / 12.5%; NAS – 17th / 17.2%
Penalty Kill: LAK – 15th / 81.1%; NAS – 16th / 80.0%
Shots/Game: LAK – t-16th / 28.6; NAS – 30th / 21.8
Shots Against/Game: LAK – 4th / 25.9; NAS – 10th / 27.9
Faceoffs: LAK – 21st / 48.6%; NAS – 13th / 50.8%
Projected Lines – Los Angeles
Dustin Brown – Anze Kopitar – Justin Williams
Simon Gagne – Mike Richards – Jeff Carter
Dwight King – Jarret Stoll – Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford – Colin Fraser – Jordan Nolan
Rob Scuderi – Drew Doughty
Slava Voynov – Alec Martinez
Davis Drewiske – Jake Muzzin
Notes: The above lines represent the same lines used in Tuesday’s win over Columbus. Drew Doughty ranks second in the league in ice time, averaging 28:20. Jordan Nolan, a plus-4 in his first four games, is a minus-4 in his last two games. As always, lineup projections are educated assessments and not certain alignments.
Projected Lines – Nashville
Sergei Kostitsyn – Mike Fisher – Martin Erat
Gabriel Bourque – David Legwand – Colin Wilson
Brandon Yip – Nick Spaling – Craig Smith
Rich Clune – Paul Gaustad
Scott Hannan – Shea Weber
Roman Josi – Kevin Klein
Hal Gill – Ryan Ellis
Notes: Former King Rich Clune scored his first career goal in Nashville’s 6-1 win over St. Louis on Tuesday. Former Wisconsin Badger Craig Smith, who had 36 points in his 72-game rookie season a year ago and was a point-a-game player in Finland’s SM-liiga during the lockout, has been held without a point through the first nine games of the season. As always, lineup projections are educated assessments and not certain alignments.
Colin Fraser, on playing against Nashville:
“I felt we played a good game against them last time, but we need to create more offensively. They’re a stingy team that doesn’t give up much, and they’ve obviously got a good goaltender. I think keeping it simple and getting more pucks to the net with more traffic [is important]. [Pekka Rinne is] a big guy, so we’ve got to get more guys in front of him.”
Barry Trotz, on whether the Predators will use seven defensemen:
“Yes, probably, but I can’t tell you that.”
Mike Fisher, on whether the team is trying to reduce the number of minor penalties it takes:
“Yeah. Especially against those teams like L.A. tonight that can really move the puck around. We don’t want to give them too many opportunities. We can improve our PK for sure. I think we’re getting better. There’s still room for improvement.”
Fisher, on the first game back after a long road trip:
“Sometimes it can be tough coming home. I think we’ve got to make sure we’re feeding on some of the energy of our own building. I think the danger is [that] you’re trying to do a little too much and be too pretty at home. We’ve just got to keep it simple, like we did on the road, and if we do that, we’ll be fine.”