Kings (9-3-0) vs. Nashville Predators (5-3-3) at Staples Center, 7 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
Bernier goes for another blank–Kings backup goalie Jonathan Bernier gets the start against Nashville. He recorded his only career shut out against the Predators on March 30, stopping 34 shots in the 2-0 victory in Nashville. He had been recalled from Manchester the day before. The win was important because it ended an 0-3-1 skid for the Kings, who were trying to lock down their first playoff berth in seven years. They were also winless in their previous seven against the Predators.
Remember when?–It was this time last season when the Kings hosted the Predators, two days after a hard-fought 5-2 victory against visiting Pittsburgh, the defending Stanley Cup champions. Unfortunately, the Kings played like a team that left it all on the ice against the Penguins and had nothing left for the Predators. Now, the Kings must again fire themselves up for Nashville, two days after a hard-checking, emotional 1-0 victory against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning. It will be interesting to see if history repeats itself.
Handzus preys on the Predators–Third-line center Michal Handzus has been a model of consistency the last two seasons, scoring 42 points in each. By those standards, he’s off to a somewhat tepid start this season with five points in 12 games, including just one in the last five. He’ll be happy to see Nashville across the way, however, as he has been a menace against the Predators, totaling 21 points in 35 career games.
Smyth to join elite group–His 999th NHL game was a memorable one, no reason to believe his 1,000th will be any different. Yep, if you haven’t heard, Kings left wing Ryan Smyth is scheduled to appear in his 1,000 game against the Predators, and the 34-year-old is showing no signs of a slowing down. He set up the only goal Thursday against Tampa Bay, his eighth point of the season. Smyth will be the 257th NHL player to reach that mark.
Tall orders–The Predators are 29th in the league in goals per game (2.4) and no player has more than seven points. Good thing they’ve been getting some decent goaltending. Anders Lindback, a 6-foot-6 rookie, is 3-0-1 this season with a respectable 2.55 goals-against average. Pekka Rinna, who stands 6-5, is 2-3-1 with a 2.65 average. Predicting their rotation has been somewhat challenging, however. Rinne started the season opener, Lindback the next three, then Rinna in six of the last seven. Regardless of who starts in goal, the Kings will have a big body to shoot around.