Saturday, March 17, 2012
Kings: Hoping to stay hot vs. Predators
By Dan Arritt
Kings (34-25-12, 80 points) vs. Nashville Predators (41-21-8, 90 points) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. 71 down, 11 to go – The more the stakes rise, the better the Kings seem to be playing lately. They’ve won three straight games and seven of 10 since acquiring Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for defenseman Jack Johnson. Better yet, they’ve scored 33 goals in those 10 games, much better than two-goal average they owned the first 61 games of the season. One game back of the final playoff spot heading into today, they can't afford to take a night off.
2. Streaking King – Dustin Brown assisted on an empty-net goal by Mike Richards in the closing seconds of a 4-2 victory Friday night in Anaheim, setting a career high with at least a point in 10 consecutive games. The longest point streaks in the NHL this season are 12 by Eric Staal of Carolina and John Tavares of the Islanders. In case you’re wondering, the franchise record for the Kings is 25, shared by Wayne Gretzky (1990-91 season) and Bernie Nicholls(1984-85). Nicholls currently serves as an assistant coach with the Kings.
3. Young and hungry – Kings rookie forwards Dwight King and Jordan Nolan continue to contribute in ways that should keep them on the roster through the rest of the regular season. King had a team-high eight shots on goal against the Ducks, helping the Kings to a 43-20 advantage, and continues to fit in nicely on the second line with Carter and Richards. Nolan has settled into a fourth-line role with Colin Fraser and Kyle Clifford. He provided the screen that led to the first goal against Anaheim, a slap shot from the point by Alec Martinez.
4. Blue-line bonanza – Known for their mobile defensemen, the Kings received more than their share of contributions from the blue-line crew Friday night. Matt Greene matched his career-high with two assists, Drew Doughty also had two helpers and Martinez scored a goal, giving a defensemen a hand in every goal against the Ducks. Secondary scoring could be key against the Predators, who have the 10th-best defense in the league.
5. Power vs. power – The Predators continue to own the most efficient power-play unit in the league. They’ve scored on 21.4 percent of their man-advantage situations, including three power-play goals in the last three games. The Kings will match with the fourth-best penalty kill unit, which had its streak of 33 consecutive kills ended Friday night against Anaheim.