Kings-Predators Preview

The Nashville Predators were in the midst of a long road trip

and had only one victory when they faced the Los Angeles Kings

exactly one week ago.

Things have changed for the better since.

Back home after a lengthy stay on the road, Nashville seeks a

fourth straight victory and second win in eight days over Los

Angeles on Thursday night.

The Predators (4-2-3) dropped five of their first six games –

three in a shootout – and were coming off their second shutout loss

heading into the Staples Center on Jan. 31. They pulled out a 2-1

victory after an eight-round shootout, though, and proceeded to win

the next two, including Tuesday’s 6-1 rout of St. Louis.

Nashville finished a franchise record-tying seven-game road trip

by setting a season high for goals after netting only four in its

previous five games combined.

“I think this whole road trip was a really good thing for us,”

said Martin Erat, who had a goal and two assists Tuesday after not

recording a point in his last four. “We got to spend a lot of time

together, and now our game has been improving the last three games.

The team is coming together.”

Shea Weber has yet to record a point this season, but that is

the least of his concerns.

“We’re winning games,” Weber said. “If we win the rest of the

games this year and I don’t get any points, then that’s the way it

will be and I’m happy with that.”

Five players finished with multiple points Tuesday, though,

including Colin Wilson, who had a career-high three assists.

“Our offense, sometimes it can be mental,” Wilson said. “Guys

got a few points and we started feeling good about ourselves.

That’s going to help in the long run.”

So will more stellar performances from Pekka Rinne, who has a

0.95 goals-against average during the winning streak. He’s stopped

the last 65 shots he’s faced at even strength, and the Predators

haven’t allowed an even-strength goal in the last 230 minutes, 26

seconds of play since Phoenix scored in the third period Jan.

28.

Los Angeles (3-3-2) will look to snap that streak after beating

Columbus 4-2 on Tuesday – its second stop on a five-game road

trip.

Anze Kopitar scored and Mike Richards had a goal and an assist

despite racking up 19 penalty minutes for a second-period fight

after Brandon Dubinsky delivered an illegal hit to defenseman Rob

Scuderi.

Dubinsky was fined $10,000 for the hit, but Scuderi will be in

the lineup Thursday.

Kopitar has three goals and two assists over the last five

games, while Richards added his first goal of the season to go

along with one assist in each of the last four.

“The strength of our team should be the strength of our

centermen. And it’s not necessary that it’s been yet, but it should

be,” coach Darryl Sutter said. “Every team has different strengths

and weaknesses, and as long as the players know what they are, you

try and work around it.”

Justin Williams tied his career high with three assists

Tuesday.

“It’s good to see (Williams) score points,” Sutter said. “It’s

good to see Richie score. Hopefully that’s a step for them.”

The Kings are 7-2-1 in the last 10 matchups and have won four of

the last five meetings in Nashville. Jonathan Quick, though, is

only 1-4-2 with a 2.83 GAA in seven career starts versus the

Predators.