The Nashville Predators play for a second night in a row. They head up the 5 Freeway to face the red-hot Los Angeles Kings.
The Nashville Predators evened up their California road trip record to 1-1-0 Friday night when they defeated the Anaheim Ducks by a score of five to three. In a rematch of the 2017 Western Conference finals, the Predators and Ducks showed physical play and plenty of power play chances. It was the Predators, however, that found a way to capitalize on opportunities to lead them to their sixth win this season.
The Los Angeles Kings come into this evening’s contest following a five to three victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at home. The Kings currently sit in first place within the Pacific division and in second place in the league with 21 points thus far. Their matchup with Nashville will be the second game of a two game home-stand before taking a trip to Anaheim to face the Ducks.
The Kings Back On The Throne
The Los Angeles Kings struggled during the 2016-17 season, finishing fifth in the Pacific division and missing the playoffs. This season has brought new power to the Kings, giving them ten wins in their first thirteen games. Head coach Darryl Sutter was replaced after last season’s campaign by former Philadelphia Flyers head coach and Kings assistant coach, John Stevens. Stevens seems to have quelled the Kings’ offensive woes. The team that ranked twenty-fifth in scoring last season now ranks fifth in scoring this season. The Kings also lead the league in goals against, allowing just 27 goals.
Captain Anze Kopitar leads the team in points with fifteen and in goals with seven. Impressively, Goaltender Jonathan Quick boasts a .939 save percentage. Quick also amassed two shut-outs, which is tied for the most in the league this season. Four Kings have five goals or more and five have cracked double digits in points. Injuries for the Kings include Kyle Clifford and more notably, Jeff Carter.
Overall, the team made a massive 180 degree turn from what fans saw at the close of last season. Scoring has risen, goals against has fallen and the team looks like the squad that won two Stanley Cups. They continue to play a physical style, sitting at fifth in the league in hits. However, skill players like Tyler Toffoli and Adrian Kempe have plenty of creative allowance to do what they do. Rarely do teams built like this emerge.
Keys To Tonight’s Game
The Nashville Predators took a nice step forward in their win over Anaheim on Friday. They put an end to a two game losing streak and scored five or more goals for the second time this season. They hope that offensive spark will lead them past the stingiest team in the NHL. In order to earn the win, they will need to focus on two key areas:
1. Take Away The Eyes
When facing elite goaltenders like Jonathan Quick, skill is not enough to find the back of the net. The only way to fool those piercing eyes becomes taking their vision away. Every shot has to have traffic in front of Quick. Luckily, Nashville does a great job working the puck to the blue line for high shots. If they hit the net, they will find opportunities to score tonight.
2. Protect The Slot
The Kings feed the slot on their offensive zone exceptionally well. While not a very fast team, they out-muscle opponents on the boards low in the offensive zone and immediately hit someone in the slot with a pass. The defensive leaders and the centers for the Predators have to be aware of that threat tonight. They must sure every man gets tied up.
It looks like it’ll be the battle of the back-ups tonight as Juuse Saros and Darcy Keumper face off. Peter Laviolette saw enough from Irwin and Weber to keep them in the line-up over Girard, so he’ll sit for another game. The lines are a copy from last night.
Follow The Game
Television coverage begins with Predators Live Pregame at 9 p.m. CT and the puck drops at 9:30 p.m. CT on Fox Sports Tennessee. The game can also be heard on 102.5 The Game.