The Los Angeles Kings have rediscovered their dominant defensive form during their winning streak. The Nashville Predators’ performance at that end of the ice has keyed their best start in 10 years.
Goals could be difficult to come by at Staples Center on Saturday when the Kings try for their seventh consecutive victory by snapping a five-game skid against the Predators.
Since giving up 12 goals in the first three games, Los Angeles (6-3-0) has tightened things up and allowed six over the past six. Milan Lucic had the late go-ahead score and Jonathan Quick stopped 24 shots in a 4-1 win at Winnipeg on Tuesday.
"I think the main thing is that we’re having fun and we just have to keep having fun, working hard and that’s going to (help) continue our success," Lucic said.
Quick has posted an 0.99 goals-against average in winning his last five starts, though he’s struggled against Nashville with a 2-7-2 record and 2.93 GAA in 12 career starts.
Los Angeles, among the top defensive teams in the NHL over the past several seasons, is second-best in the league this season with 18 goals allowed. It will face the No. 1 team in that category in the Predators (7-1-1), who have given up 17 and are off to their best nine-game start since they were 8-0-1 in 2005-06.
Following last Saturday’s 2-1 overtime loss to Pittsburgh, Nashville bounced back by limiting San Jose to a season low-tying 21 shots in Wednesday’s 2-1 win to open a four-game trip. Eric Nystrom opened the scoring before Calle Jarnkrok put the Predators ahead in the third period.
"You want to have success on the road and that first game is usually an indication of how you’re going to come out of the gates and how you’re going to play the rest of the trip," defenseman Barret Jackman told the team’s official website. "When you win the first game it’s great for momentum and great for a blueprint of how you have to play the entire time."
Pekka Rinne, with a 1.74 GAA in his eight starts, made 20 saves against the Sharks. He had been 4-3-0 with a 3.88 GAA at Staples before stopping 23 shots in a 2-1 win in the most recent meeting there March 14.
Nashville has gone 5-0-1 against Los Angeles over the past two seasons, including five straight wins. Mike Fisher has three goals and four assists in his last four in the series, while defenseman Seth Jones has five assists in the past five matchups and three in his last three games overall.
Tyler Toffoli has stepped up offensively during the Kings’ win streak with six goals in the six games. Jeff Carter, with a team-high nine points, has three goals and four assists in his last four overall and six goals over his last six against Nashville.
Los Angeles, which has scored 14 times in the past four games, has gone 4 for its last 9 with the man advantage after a 1-for-21 start. The Predators, though, rank among NHL leaders with an 88.5 penalty killing percentage.
Nashville has yet to allow a first-period goal but the Kings have five over their last five games.