In my view, the Kings’ recent record can be divided into three parts:
- December 1st-27th: 9-2-1, good at home and on the road despite losing Mitchell and Poni again
- Dec. 29th-30th (PHO, PHI): Fatigue/shellshock -> panic/meltdown; lose by 13-6 combined
- Jan 1st- 3rd (CHI, SJS): Stabilized but nervous in close games; good things happening, not yet playing to full potential
The last two phases comprise a four game losing streak, so Terry Murray has reshuffled the lines. Handzus with Smyth and Williams? Seems…kinda crazy, right? Rudy Kelly has some thoughts on the new world order.
-Johnson and Doughty have been the top defensive pair since 12/18. Reuniting them for the first time since the playoffs was an interesting move, especially because Terry Murray said it was inspired by the matchup of Weber and Suter. Nashville has obviously one of the best pairs in the league – they do a terrific job defensively, and both also pose a scoring threat. TM liked what he saw that night in the 6-1 victory over the Preds, and so it has remained.
We’ve seen some highs and some lows ever since. The training wheels are off. Matt Greene might be out with the flu, too. Can the young guns keep doing it for themselves?
-The Predators have had to make some adjustments of their own, with some of their top forwards (Martin Erat, Matthew Lombardi, Steve Sullivan, and now Cal O’Reilly) out with injuries. Scoring hasn’t been a problem for them recently, however: they’ve scored 4 goals in each of their last 3 games, and the Hornqvist, Goc, and Kostitsyn line is sizzling. Ryan Suter also has 10 points in his last 12 games.
-Despite what the score of the last game against the Kings might suggest, the Predators remain a stingy and defensive-minded team. They average only 2.36 GA per game (compare the Kings’ 2.46). Nashville's penalty kill is 4th in the league (85.7%). They’ve killed off an amazing 71 of their last 77 penalties.
-Bernier and Lindback are in net again. The Preds are particularly determined to get off to a fast start this time. The Kings got off to an excellent first period last time out, but weren't able to sustain it. Two desperate, streaky teams looking to strike first: should be exciting to watch.
The Predators have 46 points and are on a 3 game winning streak; the Kings are stuck at 45 in a tangle with other teams near 8th place. They’re all like playoff games at this point, aren’t they? Go Kings.