Monday, February 27, 2012
Kings: Not your ordinary day in Nashville
By Dan Arritt
Kings (28-22-12, 68 points) vs. Nashville Predators (36-19-7, 79 points) at Bridgestone Arena, 5 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Deadline day: Kings coach Darryl Sutter made it clear last week he wasn’t too pleased with the NHL schedule maker, who assigned them a road game the night of the trade deadline. As if the Kings don’t have enough to be concerned with on the ice, a few players probably experienced a restless night in Nashville wondering if they’d still be wearing the crown Monday night. Now two points out of the final playoff spot thanks to a late rally by Dallas on Sunday afternoon, the Kings will need all the focus they can muster for this game.
2. Repeat performance: The Kings emerged from their four-game losing streak to play one of their better games Saturday night, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks, 4-0, at Staples Center. The problem with the Kings this season, they haven’t been able to sustain any type of offensive momentum from one game to the next. Thirteen times this season they've have scored four or more goals in a game, but only twice have they followed up by scoring more than two the next game. One of those was a 5-4 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars.
3. On the road again: Newly acquired forward Jeff Carter barely unpacked his bags after getting traded to the Kings from the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday night and then making his debut against the Blackhawks. He’s back on the road for this mini two-game trip and will face a club that looks a lot more familiar than most other Western Conference teams. While playing in the same division as the Predators before the trade, he produced five goals and two assists in four games against Nashville, including a hat trick in his last meeting, a 6-5 loss on Dec. 22.
4. More coming and goings: Nashville right wing Patric Hornqvist returned Saturday night after a five-game absence because of an undisclosed upper-body injury and helped the Predators to a 6-2 victory against the struggling San Jose Sharks. The Predators lost a popular member of the team the day before when right wing Jerred Smithson was traded to the Florida Panthers for a sixth-round draft pick. It was hardly a blockbuster deal, but one that appears to have left the Nashville locker room feeling a little empty. Smithson was the player who scored in overtime to beat the Ducks in the pivotal Game 5 of the Western Conference playoffs last season.
5. Special teams match up: Nashville seems like an unlikely team to lead the league in power-play efficiency, but there the Predators are, owning a 21.7 percent success rate with the man-advantage. Nashville, which finished 26th on the power play last season, has three power-play goals in the last 10 man-advantage situations. The Kings will counter with the league’s fourth-best penalty-kill unit. They've killed 34 of the last 38 power plays they’ve faced.