Preview: Los Angeles Kings (16-13-3) @ Nashville Predators (15-12-5)
Oh, hi. You’re looking for a preview of tonight’s game? Right, sure. Give me a minute, I’m still --
Wait, not ready --
Seriously, one more minute --
Carter, on soaking in the boos during the shootout: "It's great. Love it. Love it."— Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) December 21, 2016
Okay. Okay, I’m back. Sorry. I’m in the midwest and it’s very cold and this is all very beautiful and my whole home has been heated on the boos of Blue Jackets fans and also I just needed a moment. You all understand, I’m sure.
The Kings roll into Nashville on the back of a shootout loss against the Blue Jackets and a strong performance from back-up goalie Curtis McElhinney. The real story, not just this past game but for most of the season, has been the outstanding play of Jeff Carter. Aside from the fact that he seems to enjoy scoring against his old team -- 17 points (11G, 6A) in 16 games; he led the team with six shots on goal this past game -- he’s performing at an elite level and has certainly put this team on his back several times this season, especially during the stretch where they were without Anze Kopitar. He’s had his fair share of multi-point games already and hasn’t gone more than three games yet this season without recording a point, which is good to see from someone who’s been a streaky scorer throughout his career.
It’s not just Carter who’s coming off a good game, though -- the defensive pairing of Derek Forbort and Drew Doughty excelled, Nic Dowd lead the team in Corsi both at evens (69%) and all situations (66.7%), and Peter Budaj is very quietly holding his own in net. Tonight’s lineup is uncertain, without a full morning skate. Dustin Brown could return to the lineup, and he would probably Devin Setoguchi back to the press box for the evening. With this being the first half of a back-to-back, don’t be surprised to see some weirdness in the lineup.
The Predators, meanwhile, return home after a quick road trip east, winning both games of their back to back against the Devils and Flyers. They’ve only won four of their last ten (same as the Kings), but after a shaky start to the season, are slowly starting to round out into the threat that everyone thought they’d be. And they’ve been doing it lately without PK Subban, who has missed the past three games with an upper body injury. There’s a small chance he’d return tonight, but realistically there’s no reason to rush him back from injury, particularly with the holiday break approaching.
This game doesn’t quite rise to the category of must win, but the Kings currently have the tiebreaker on the Predators for the last wild card spot in the west. It’s still a bit too early to really do much standings watching, but two points for the Kings could go a long way to help distance them a little further from the rest of the hangers-on in the west.
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Gaborik - Kopitar - Lewis
King - Carter - Toffoli
Pearson - Dowd - Setoguchi
Andreoff - Shore - Nolan
Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - Martinez
Gravel - Greene
Forsberg - Johansen - Fiala
Wilson - Ribeiro - Smith
Arvidsson - Fisher - Neal
Sissons - Jarnkrok - Watson
Josi - Ellis
Ekholm - Irwin
Pardy - Weber
Opposing Preview: On the Forecheck