Preview: Nashville Predators (23-11-6) @ Los Angeles Kings (24-12-5)
Game Time: 7:30 PM, FS-W
The loss to Calgary on Thursday was maybe not the most unpredictable thing that’s ever happened to the Kings. And the lackluster second period certainly wasn’t a surprise either — the Kings are a great third period team, but the other forty minutes have left something to be desired more often than not. Exactly how bad the second period was is what was the surprise, however. Four goals against, seventeen shots against, only five shots for, difficulty maintaining any sort of possession or momentum: it was most certainly the worst second period the Kings have played all year. And while they tightened things up in the third, that middle frame was enough to doom them.
An embarrassing performance in Calgary should serve as enough motivation for the Kings to come out firing on all cylinders against the Nashville Predators tonight. But there’s something else working against the Kings: the bye week. This game is the last the Kings play before their five-day bye week, and games before breaks are prime opportunities for teams to try to coast, even if they’d never admit it.
Maintaining focus is going to be key against the Predators. They have one of the most complete blue lines in the league so it’s difficult to find a pairing that will be easy to exploit. Their forward corps has endured injuries and slumps and still have found a way to win. And that second period? The Predators are the best second period team in the league, scoring 56 goals in the middle frame so far this season. The Kings are 30th, scoring only 30 goals in that time. And the Predators are great at keeping pucks out of their net, then, too, allowing 36 (the Kings have allowed 31).
If there’s any good news to be had, it’s that the Predators right now could be very beatable. They’ve lost two straight and have wins in four of their last ten. Their losses came to Vegas (a 3-0 shutout) and Arizona (a 3-2 overtime loss) and offense at times has been hard to come by. The Predators are saying all the right things about not stressing out about their current slump, but an early Kings lead could make Nashville press and get sloppy. Theoretically, at least.
The Kings may see a few changes on the front end tonight, with Alex Iafallo and Jonny Brodzinski drawing back in. John Stevens spoke at length about the decision to make Iafallo a healthy scratch — more about monitoring fatigue levels for Iafallo, since the scheduling concerns and game frequency of a college schedule is a whole different world from the NHL, rather than a true performance-based scratch. It’s an interesting quote from Stevens and well worth a read as a bit of a glimpse into his/the organization’s thoughts on player usage.
On the blue line, Jake Muzzin has been moved to injured reserve, as he’s been apparently playing through something minor, and is being shut down for a bit. Muzzin’s move opens up a spot for Christian Folin to be re-activated, and he will play tonight, paired with Derek Forbort on the third pairing. Kevin Gravel jumps up to play with Drew Doughty. Kurtis MacDermid, despite his more frequent mistakes and lack of speed, continues to play over Oscar Fantenberg.
There’s just sixty minutes (hopefully!) to get through, and then everyone can take a break. Let’s do it.
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Pearson - Kopitar - Brown
Gaborik - Kempe - Toffoli
Clifford - Shore - Lewis
Iafallo - Mitchell - Brodzinski
Gravel - Doughty
MacDermid - Martinez
Forbort - Folin
Aberg - Jarnkrok - Arvidsson
Fiala - Turris - Smith
Hartnell - Bonino - Sissons
Salomaki - Johansen - Watson
Josi - Ellis
Ekholm - Subban
Emelin - Weber
Opposing Preview: On the Forecheck