Predators-Kings Preview

The Los Angeles Kings got off to a sluggish start, but the

reigning Stanley Cup champs are starting to pick up some

points.

A matchup with the Nashville Predators could help them earn two

more.

Los Angeles goes for a third straight victory Thursday night

when the Predators try to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat.

Since opening with three straight losses for the first time

since 1985-86, the Kings (2-2-1) have posted back-to-back

victories. Still, Los Angeles is a work in progress – it has scored

10 goals and converted a league-worst 3.7 percent (1 for 27) on the

power play.

Jeff Carter scored the team’s first power-play goal in Monday’s

3-2 shootout home win over Vancouver.

“We’re still not the way we were in June last year, but we’re

getting there,” said center Anze Kopitar, who set up Slava

Voynov’s game-tying goal with 43.2 seconds left in regulation on

Monday. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction. We still

have to work on things, and everyone in here thinks we can crank it

up a notch. We just want to make sure we build on this win and roll

ahead.”

While the Kings look to build momentum for a five-game trip that

begins Saturday at Anaheim, the Predators (1-2-3) are making their

fifth stop on a franchise high-tying seven-game trip.

Nashville opened that stretch with a 3-1 victory over Minnesota

on Jan. 22, but has found the back of the net just two more times

since – both in Saturday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Ducks.

The Predators after are averaging a Western Conference-low 1.67

goals following Monday’s 4-0 loss to Phoenix.

“You’ve got to fight to get in the interior,” said coach Barry

Trotz, whose team next plays at home on Feb. 7 against Los Angeles.

“For the most part, Phoenix deflected the attack pretty well, but

when you’re getting deflected to the outside all the time you’ve

got to fight to get in the interior. We didn’t get enough interior

play and therefore we didn’t cause enough havoc.”

“Sometimes you’ve got to get greasy goals,” he added. “We’re

not willing to get greasy goals.”

The Predators won’t be getting anything from Patric Hornqvist

for the next three to four weeks after he suffered a sprained knee

Saturday.

Four of Hornqvist’s team-leading 27 goals last season came

against Los Angeles, which won three of four matchups with

Nashville, including both at Staples Center.

Without Hornqvist, who has a team-high three assists, the

Predators will need Martin Erat, Mike Fisher, David Legwand,

defenseman Shea Weber (no points) among others to pick up the

scoring.

If they don’t, that could leave little room for error for

goaltender Pekka Rinne (0-2-3), who has a 1.34 goal-support

average. The Finn has lost five of his last six starts to Los

Angeles after winning his first four in this series.

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, one start shy of 250, made 22

saves in a 5-4 road win over Nashville on March 6 for his first

victory in six starts against the Predators.

Quick, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner, has given up two

goals in each of the last three games to help Los Angeles earn at

least one point each time.

“Any time you get two points, you get a little boost of

confidence, but it’s only good for tonight,” Quick said Monday.

“It’s a playoff race right now, and every point is huge.”