Nov 8, 2011; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber (6) collides with Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar (11) at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

Gameday: Nashville Predators at Los Angeles Kings, 1/31/13

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

at LOS ANGELES KINGS

January 31st, 2013
Staples Center
Los Angeles, California
9:30 p.m. CST
TV: FOX Sports Tennessee
Game available in Atlanta market

The Nashville Predators continue their road trip tonight by taking on last year’s Stanley Cup champions, the Los Angeles Kings. L.A. had the Preds’ number last season, winning three of their four meetings.

LOS ANGELES KINGS

(2-2-1, 3rd in Pacific)

Like Nashville, the Los Angeles Kings have had trouble scoring so far this season. It’s not for a lack of weapons – between Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, and Mike Richards they certainly have options on offense. Even with those troubles, their defense is still tough to score on.

Key players

Anze Kopitar will face the Nashville Predators tonight

Three points in four games makes Anze a dangerous boy. (PHOTO: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

Anze Kopitar has averaged 20:57 ice time per game in his four games this season, more than any other Kings forward and all but three defensemen. He’ll probably see ice time against several different Nashville lines, which makes him the Kings’ most constant threat. Limiting his time and space is essential.

Jonathan Quick won the Conn Smythe last year for propelling the Kings to the Stanley Cup with some amazing goaltending numbers, but this season has been a rough one for him so far. He’s 2-2-1 with a 2.75 GAA and .905 save percentage. The overtime loss came in the game where he gave up the tying goal to Nail Yakupov with just five seconds left in regulation:

Jeff Carter faces the Nashville Predators tonight

With a face like this at his disposal, Jeff Carter would make an excellent supervillain. (PHOTO: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

Others to watch

Before he was traded to the Kings last season, Jeff Carter notched a hat trick against the Preds while playing for Columbus – and all three goals came in a single period. Nashville actually managed to come from behind and win that game, but L.A.’s defense is better than the Blue Jackets’.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

(1-2-3, 4th in Central)

This has not been the start the Nashville Predators envisioned during their week-long training camp. Their offense has been terrible, scoring just 10 goals and only one by a defenseman. And though their defense is still better than most, they’ve still given up five more goals than they’ve managed to score. On a positive note, the team has had two days off for the first time this season and put in a long practice yesterday. They’ll be hoping that can help to reverse their current direction in the standings.

Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber

The Preds really need points from the blue line, partcularly from Shea Weber. (PHOTO: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports)

Key players

Among players who don’t have a sprained knee, Shea Weber has led the Predators in shots this season with 16. Yet none have made it through to the net, nor has the captain recorded an assist. Anybody laying realistic odds on Shea Weber going pointless for six straight games before the season began would have gone out of business by now. He’s due for a breakout at some point very soon, and the team could use such a contribution tonight.

Others to watch

Pekka Rinne is the backbone of this team, and though he’s winless at the moment things would be much, much worse than they already are without him in net. Though he’s looked fantastic in short, infrequent bursts, he has yet to stand on his head this season even as the team has leaned on him more than usual. A vintage Pekka performance would go a long way toward helping Nashville pick up two points tonight.

Nashville Predators forward Colin Wilson

The Preds need more of this and they need it now. (PHOTO: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports)

The Preds need scoring, so they’ll be looking to Colin Wilson. He has registered 10 shots on net so far this season, and has also fired another five shots wide. Now that he’s playing alongside Mike Fisher and Martin Erat with some regularity, he should have more chances than he did on lower lines. If he could up his average shots on goal by just one per night the team would likely see a benefit.

Bottom line

Given both teams’ defensive proclivities and their scoring woes so far this season, this looks like it should be a low-scoring affair. Of course, we’re dealing with small sample sizes here, so variance could have its say and give us, say, a 7-5 final score. Either way, we’re looking at two teams with demanding coaches who are currently performing below their own expectations. They should both be fired up to play better hockey.

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