The Nashville Predators are in LA LA Land to take on a puck dominating Kings team. Both teams will look to step up their play after a few mediocre games.
It’s safe to say that neither team is happy with their performances of late. The Nashville Predators and Kings are both 4-4-2 in their last ten games. Despite their recent skids, both clubs are still very much in the playoff picture and could easily steal the first spot.
The Predators beat the Kings earlier this year, but star goaltender Jonathan Quick was on the bench after a back-to-back. This likely won’t be the case as the Kings are rested and almost at full health. The key piece they’re missing is scoring machine Jeff Carter, who will be out till sometime in February.
Both teams are looking to get back on the right track, so let’s see who’s driving the Kings.
The royal brigade
Two players always come to mind when I think of the Kings, Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty. Kopitar’s two-way play is only matched by Patrice Bergeron right now, as Kopitar has 17 goals and 43 points in 41 games. His possession scores are also above average despite starting the defensive zone more often than not. The biggest accomplishment for Kopitar so far is that he’s turned Dustin Brown into a functioning NHL player again. This high powered offense will look to smother the Predators’ struggling scorers.
Let me start by saying that Drew Doughty has been a top-three defenseman since about 2011. But someone messed around and dangled over 10 million dollars in front of him and now he’s reaching new heights. Head Coach John Stevens has let the Norris winner off the leash, and it’s paid off as Doughty has seven goals and 30 points in 41 games. The official records say that he averages about 27 minutes per night, but just watch him. I saw him play against the Sharks in person a few weeks ago and the man didn’t come off the ice, he’s a machine. He’s easily the most important part of the Kings puzzle, and almost reminiscent of Duncan Keith a few years ago.
The Nashville Predators
The projected lineup according to the Nashville Predators’ website is:
Note: A starting goaltender hasn’t been announced, but I imagine it’s Rinne who’s had a few days off.
Keys to the game
- Subban and Ekholm should match Kopitar. Whenever he’s on the ice, the shutdown pair should follow. This will be extremely tough as the Kings have last change and could take advantage of the Emelin-Weber pair. Regardless, this is will be the first real challenge for the shutdown pair since the playoffs last year, it’ll be interesting to see if there’s any rust.
- Get the puck out. Usually, I emphasize possession and not easily surrendering it, but after the Coyotes game, the Predators should throw it out any chance they get. Especially the Bonino line who was especially terrible in their own zone against the Coyotes. The Kings won’t squander the chances that the Predators served to Arizona. It’s important to make every zone exit count.
- Clear traffic. The LA Kings are a big lumbering team whose bread and butter is in front of the net. Clearing them out and making them play along the perimeter will not be easy but extremely rewarding.
Where to watch
The game will be on Fox Sports Tennesse at 9:30PM as well as 102.5 The Game.