Not sure a win against the L.A. Kings will change any negative vibes, but the Nashville Predators nonetheless need this win in the worst way.
You have to start somewhere if you want to dig yourself out of a hole, and for the Nashville Predators it can start tonight in Los Angeles against the Kings.
The Predators and Kings both are flirting with last place in their respective divisions. The Kings have played three more games than the Predators have, but either way this matchup features two teams in the basement right now.
And not the decked out man cave type of a basement. This is the basement that is leaking and has mold everywhere. The Predators have to begin climbing their way out, but they’re running out of time.
Defense in shambles
With no Ryan Ellis in the lineup, this defense gets even more shaky. For most of the season the defensive pairings have remained constant, with the exception of interchanging Yannick Weber and Matt Irwin on the third pairing.
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Ellis took a dirty elbow to the head from Corey Perry during the Winter Classic on Wednesday, and now it’s unknown how much time he’s going to miss. This forces Weber up to be paired with Josi, and keep Irwin in the lineup with Dan Hamhuis.
It’s going to take the Predators scoring at least four goals per game to have solid chances to win. That’s honestly how suspect this defense has become. No longer can we feel safe when the Predators are up two or even three goals early on.
Even with a depleted defense, the Predators should be able to handle the Kings offense. They don’t have a lot of weapons and are one of the least-efficient offensive teams in the NHL at 2.6 goals per game.
JOFA line is back
There’s also no Colton Sissons for this game due to injury, so this forces more lineup shuffling. Colin Blackwell is going to continue to see time with the Predators as he’s now played in eight games this season and brought a physical style of hockey to the forwards.
Perhaps going back to old tricks will work by reuniting the trio of Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson. At this point I feel like Peter Laviolette is just throwing everything at a wall and seeing what sticks.
This team desperately needs it’s proven, superstar veterans to start stepping up more. I’m not seeing enough from Matt Duchene or the JOFA trio during this tailspin. They have to put this team on their collective backs and ride out this storm.
I’m ready to see a dominant performance from this group against a weaker opponent. There’s no excuse for anything less than a comfortable win against the Kings if this team shows up and plays a full 60 minutes. Of course that’s always a big “if” when talking about this year’s Nashville Predators.
What else to watch for
The Kings have already defeated the Predators once this season in Los Angeles back in the second week of the regular season. This was a wild game that had six goals in the 3rd period, and saw the Predators erase a three-goal deficit to briefly tie the game. The Kings would then score three goals in the final minute of regulation to win.
Juuse Saros was the starter in the first meeting, and I’d expect him to get the start again as Pekka Rinne started in the Winter Classic. One of these two goaltenders need to get hot quick and start bailing out the Predators like they’re both capable of doing. My money is on Saros that he gets on a hot streak before Rinne does.
The Kings are led by Anze Kopitar with 15 goals and 37 points. He had a goal and an assist in the first meeting with the Predators. Aside from Kopitar, it’s a pretty ordinary and thin roster you’d think the Predators can take care of business against.
There’s no reason why the Predators, even without Ellis, can’t hold the Kings to two goals or less. If they do that, the Predators should easily win this game. Things are going to get much uglier from here if the Predators drop this one.
The Kings rank near the bottom in the NHL in goal per game, while the Predators rank near the top. The Kings also struggled on both the power play and the penalty kill and give up over three goals per game to opponents.
This one has a late start locally with the puck drop scheduled for 9:30 PM CDT from the Staples Center. Catch it on Fox Sports Tennessee and on 102.5 The Game.