Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Kings: Hoping to sing a new tune in Nashville
By Dan Arritt
Kings (30-23-12, 72 points) vs. Nashville Predators (38-20-7, 83 points) at Bridgestone Arena, 5 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. You again? – Yes, the Kings were just in Nashville eight days ago. No, the playoffs haven’t started already. In just another quirk in the NHL schedule, the Kings will face the Predators on their home turf for the second time in just over a week. The last meeting was an exercise in frustration, as the Kings had chance after chance but only converted one of 31 shots on goal in the 2-1 loss. The good news is the Kings have been converting against everyone else lately, scoring four goals in three of the last four games.
2. Who’s in 8th? – At the beginning of last week, the Kings were eyeing Phoenix as the team to catch for the eighth spot in the Western Conference, then the Coyotes got hot and it was Dallas they were after. Now the Stars are red hot and Phoenix has lost three straight to lose their grip on the Pacific Division lead. The team the Kings have the best chance of catching at the moment, however, is the San Jose Sharks, who’ve gone from Pacific Division leader to 2-7-1 in their last 10 games, leaving them clinging to the final playoff spot in the West. The Kings are one point behind the Sharks, who host last-place Edmonton on Tuesday. Anything less than two points for L.A. is a step back at this point.
3. Power shift – Nashville was the NHL's top dog on the power play when these teams met last week, but continue to get minimal opportunities with the man advantage and have dropped to No. 2. In four of the last five games, including the last meeting against the Kings, the Predators have gone 0-for-1 on the power play. The Kings, meanwhile, have been finding their groove with the man advantage, scoring twice more Saturday night in a 4-2 victory against the visiting Ducks. Since the third period against the Capitals on Jan. 9, the Kings are 16-for-64 on the power play for a solid 25 percent success rate.
4. The little things – Kings center Jarret Stoll is headed toward the lowest-scoring season in his eight-year career and hasn’t produced a goal in his last 18 games. Not good timing when you’re in a contract year. But the 29-year-old third-liner continues to look for other ways to contribute. He laid two big checks early in the game against Anaheim, setting the tone for the rest of his teammates, and he's three games removed from his three-assist effort in a 4-0 victory against the Blackhawks. Stoll continues to be the prime go-to guy in the faceoff circle as well, standing in for 18 draws against the Ducks.
5. Decisions, decisions – Kings coach Darryl Sutter recently made a rare admission by confessing he made a mistake by not starting back-up goalie Jonathan Bernier in a road game two weeks ago in Colorado, a night after Jonathan Quick was lit up in a 5-4 shootout loss in Phoenix. Quick gave up three goals in the first period against the Avalanche before he was yanked in favor of Bernier, but by then it was too late to salvage anything from the 4-1 loss. Sutter might be second-guessed again if he doesn’t start Bernier against Nashville. He's 5-1 lifetime against the Predators, by far his best winning percentage against any team in the league.