After a roadtrip filled with adversity, the Nashville Predators return to Bridgestone Arena looking to get back on the winning track.
After a lengthy five-game road trip that bore witness to three consecutive one-goal losses, the Nashville Predators play host to the Los Angeles Kings. Tonight’s game is the first of three meetings between the two teams. Nashville will get their first taste of star forward Ilya Kovalchuk as they look to get back in the win column.
A prominent storyline for both teams heading into this matchup is the trials in facing adversity. For the first time, Nashville has experienced a losing streak. The power play has still yet to ignite. But most of all, the Nashville Predators have recently been hit with the injury bug. Viktor Arvidsson broke his thumb and will miss 6-8 weeks. P.K. Subban was placed on IR. The team also had to deal with missed time from Pekka Rinne, Calle Jarnkrok, and Dan Hamhuis. Nashville has managed to stick to their guns and win games without key pieces of their lineup. They lead the league in GA/G and are top 10 in GF/G.
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Los Angeles have experienced trying times as well but have yet to find their stride. Injuries and illnesses have plagued their goaltenders. Jonathan Quick had knee surgery. Backup Jack Campbell suffered a torn meniscus. Peter Budaj missed a game to illness. The Kings have managed to maintain a middle-of-the-road GA/G average, but the glaring issue is their scoring. They are dead last with a less than two goal per game average. The lack of scoring has contributed to their NHL-worst record of 6-11-1.
What to Watch For
While the Nashville Predators and Los Angeles Kings are on opposite ends of the NHL standings, one thing that ties them together is an unsuccessful power play. Both teams have 8 total goals with the man advantage–worst in the league. However, LA edges Nashville with a 14% versus 10.8% on the power play. Both teams will be eager to turn things around on special teams.
After a six year break from the NHL, Ilya Kovalchuk will take the ice at Bridgestone Arena. The high-scoring veteran leads his team in goals, assists, and points (5G, 9A, 14PTS). Outside of him, the Kings only have three skaters with double digits in points. If the Predators can contain Kovalchuk and limit scoring chances when he is on the ice, they will have a good shot at winning.
For the Nashville Predators, it will be a long 6-8 weeks without top line forward Viktor Arvidsson. Without him the JoFA line has seen a decline in most advanced statistics. Most notably, the highest drops in percentages have been in SCF% and HDCF%. Both have seen drops in over 10 percentage points. The search for an adequate replacement seems to be a revolving door. Predlines recently featured an article of who could fill the vacancy. According to Brooks Bratten, tonight could be Craig Smith‘s night on the top line. His tweet below showed the morning skate lineups.
Puck drop is set for 7PM Central. From the Nashville Predators website, the team is “honoring all service members at tonight’s game for a Military Appreciation. Players will wear military-themed jerseys during warmups which will then be auctioned off through the Nashville Predators Foundation.” As always, GO PREDS!