Two hard hitting teams on the hunt for more offense clash tonight. Will Bernier, AKA the Predator Nemesis, get his first shot in net? I hope so, but Quick has been getting all of the starts. It also isn't baseball.
We might spot an old friend on the other bench tonight -- Rich Clune, who was picked up off waivers, has played a few games for Nashville already. Hello, Clunatic!
Los Angeles Kings vs. Nashville Predators, Staples Center
Time: 7:30 PM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West, NHL Center Ice (last day it's free)
Enemy reading: On the Forecheck
Predators projected lineup:
Scratches: Blum, McGrattan
Injured: Hornqvist (knee)
Kings projected lineup:
Scratches: Richardson, Bodnarchuk, Penner (?)
Injured: Greene (back), Mitchell (knee)
Nearly all of the teams that made the playoffs last season were also tops in puck possession. Nashville was a fascinating exception.
Despite being killed territorially on a regular basis, the Predators finished with 104 points. How did they do it? Part of their success came from a league leading power play (21.6%), where they scored in bunches despite not generating many shots, and part of it came from phenomenal goaltending. Pekka Rinne is one of the best goalies in the NHL, but they had a good dose of puck luck beyond that, particularly when the score was tied.
Can that luck hold this season? Barry Trotz is an excellent defensive-minded coach, and his style works to cut down on opponents' scoring chances, but it'll be interesting to see where Nashville winds up if they keep losing the shot battle like they did in 2011-12.
So far, the Preds are 1-2-3 after falling 4-0 to the Coyotes. Despite the record, the score has been close in most of their games; they lost three shootouts, which are basically a coinflip. The underlying numbers still aren't pretty, though. Trotz spent the break between games working on the team's forecheck, and they should be a desperate opponent. Shea Weber sounds frustrated and growly. You never want Weber growly.
The Kings, on the other hand, are like a train that's finally pulling away from the station. They had their best overall game against Vancouver, Kopitar is getting better all the time, Carter is a golden tanned scoring machine, and they should be able to spend more of their time on the attack again tonight.
Doughty and Scuderi continue to shoulder the lion's share of minutes. They are good soldiers, and say it's not too much, but really: it is. You don't want to wear them out in a shortened season. Sutter talks a lot about how Drewiske and Muzzin have to play more minutes; tonight we will see if they can do enough to earn his trust.
Are you going to the game? Who do you peg as the breakout scorers tonight?
And will Clune punch Clifford in the face just for old times' sake?