Kings: Closing in on Pacific Division lead

March, 14, 2011
3/14/11
11:43
PM PT
Kings (39-25-5, 83 points) vs. Nashville Predators (35-24-10, 80) at Bridgestone Arena, 5 p.m. ET

Five storylines to track:

1. Closing ground -- The Kings have made up four points on San Jose in the last three games to move within three of the Pacific Division lead. Win the division and the Kings won’t be seeded any lower than third out of the Western Conference. The Kings still have two games remaining against the Sharks this season, March 24 at Staples Center and April 4 in San Jose. Since the All-Star break, San Jose has scored the most points in the West (30). Los Angeles and Vancouver are tied for second (28).

2. History maker -- Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Kings center Anze Kopitar will tie a franchise record when he steps onto the ice in Nashville, playing in his 324thconsecutive game. The last man to accomplish that in a Kings uniform was pretty well known around Los Angeles as well. Marcel Dionne played in 324 straight from January 1978 to January 1982. Kopitar’s streak also began nearly four years ago, March 21, 2007, to be exact. Kopitar is also just one assist shy of tying his career high of 47 set last season.

3. Cashing in -- The Kings are certainly getting their money’s worth out of Dustin Penner so far. Penner, acquired in a trade with Edmonton on Feb. 28, has five points in six games with the Kings and is riding a five-game point streak. Kopitar was on a roll when Penner arrived but has picked it up a notch with four goals and four assists in the last six games. Even right wing Justin Williams is clicking with his new linemate, totaling eight points in the last five games.

4. Change is good -- The Kings plan to alternate their goalie for the seventh consecutive game, starting Jonathan Bernier over Jonathan Quick, who stopped 21 shots in a 3-2 victory Sunday in Dallas. There’s actually good cause for this latest decision. Bernier (9-8-3) recorded two of his first three victories this season against the Predators, including a 29-save effort in a 6-1 win in Nashville on Dec. 18. However, he ran out of luck in his latest start against the Predators, giving up five goals on 28 shots in a 5-2 loss Jan. 6 in Los Angeles.

5. Home wreckers -- Nashville has the luxury of playing 12 of its final 15 games at Bridgestone Arena, which has many predicting the Predators will snag one of the top eight playoff spots. Nashville does have the second-best home winning percentage in the West behind first-place Vancouver, but the Kings have been no pushover on the road, owing an 11-1-3 record in their last 15 games away from Staples Center. In fact, none of the top 12 teams in the West have a losing record on the road.

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