By JEFF BARTL
January 6, 2011
The Los Angeles Kings have struggled with consistency, alternating extended winning and losing streaks for the better part of the season. Another loss would equal a level of futility they haven't experienced in more than two years.
A visit from the Nashville Predators may be just what they need.
Los Angeles shoots for its third win against Nashville this season Thursday night when the teams meet at Staples Center.
The Kings (22-16-1) are mired in their second four-game losing streak in just more than a month after a 4-3 loss to Chicago on Tuesday. The skid follows a four-game winning streak and has dropped them to fourth in the Pacific Division.
Los Angeles, which also won six straight from Oct. 28-Nov. 13, hasn't lost five straight since Oct. 25-Nov. 4, 2008.
"We can pull together a string of shifts where we can dominate any team in the league," leading scorer Anze Kopitar said. "But for some reason, we let up. Sometimes we try to do too much and don't do the right things, and that burns us every time."
Kopitar has only one goal in his last 10, but he does have 10 assists during that stretch.
Dustin Brown had five goals and eight points in the winning streak before the skid, but he's scoreless in his last four. Brown, though, has a goal and three assists in the two victories against the Predators.
Los Angeles has outscored Nashville 10-2, winning 4-1 on Nov. 6 and 6-1 on Dec. 18. Jonathan Bernier is 4-6-0 with a 3.09 goals-against average this season, but he stopped 56 of 58 shots in the two wins over Nashville.
Nashville (19-13-6) had won five straight in Los Angeles before the loss in November and have lost three in a row overall to the Kings.
However, the Predators won their third consecutive game Wednesday with a 4-1 victory against Anaheim despite being outshot 41-24. It was the first of a three-game road trip of California, which ends Saturday in San Jose.
Pekka Rinne made 40 saves and has been in net for each of the three victories, which have all come by 4-1 scores.
The Predators have given up a Western Conference-low 94 goals.
"We played really well defensively, which is great to see at the start of a road trip," Rinne said. "We know it's going to be a really tough road trip out here, but we stuck together defensively. They got a lot of shots, but we didn't give them so many good chances. We just have a strong defensive core. That's our backbone."
Rinne is likely to start Thursday, but has lost two straight against the Kings. He's 4-2-0 with a 2.89 GAA against Los Angeles.
Patrick Hornqvist scored his 10th goal against the Ducks, extending his goal-scoring streak to three games and tying him for the team lead with Steve Sullivan.
Sullivan, who has missed the last five games with a lower-body injury, is questionable for this game.
The Predators have lost three straight to the Kings after seven consecutive victories in the series from Oct. 25, 2008 through March 14, 2010.