After a dominant performance against the Stars on Tuesday, Darcy Kuemper says his team is on the verge of taking off. The 100% commitment in Dallas to the good ol’ adage of “playing the game the right way” from the whole roster, top line on down, was a promising sign, to be sure.
What’s going to be more impressive is if they can do it again against one of the better home teams in the league.
In January, the Predators went 4-1-1 at home, with their regulation loss coming on Tuesday against Chicago. Coming out of the All-Star break, the Predators looked sluggish and disengaged, while Chicago looked like a team fighting to claw its way back into the playoffs. It was an uncharacteristic flop from the Predators, who only have two regulation losses in their last ten games (those losses bookended the month: a 3-0 shutout by Vegas on January 2, and the 2-1 Chicago loss on the 30th).
The Predators should get a boost from Filip Forsberg, who returns to the lineup after missing all of January with an injury. Forsberg has been Nashville’s leading scorer, though he got passed up by PK Subban over the past month.
And while he’s not in the lineup yet, the Predators have announced that Mike Fisher is coming out of retirement to join the team for the remainder of the season. His return to help shore up the center lineup is as good as any rental depth forward the Predators could have acquired at the deadline, in addition to already being a known quantity and a fan favorite. Fisher’s return has got to be a big boost for the team, both on-ice and off, as they gear up for another playoff run.
In two games this season, the Predators have defeated the Kings by a score of 4-3. One of those games featured a patented third period comeback from the Kings, who scored three straight goals to force overtime, including this one from Christian Folin:
The Predators definitely expose some of the Kings’ weaknesses, especially when it comes to depth scoring. The projected bottom six for Nashville has combined for a total of 75 points over the season (34G, 41A), while tonight’s Kings bottom six have just 59 (27G, 32A), including Kyle Clifford, who plays a ton of hard minutes and only has two points to show for it so far over 19 games. With the top lines expecting to shut each other down, depth scoring may be what wins the battle tonight, so Clifford, Trevor Lewis, Andy Andreoff, et al., may need to step it up a notch.
Jonathan Quick is expected to be back tonight, after nursing his, uh, injury. Darcy Kuemper performed more than admirably in Quick’s absence, and all we can do is hope that Quick is back in top shape and ready to perform to help win two very important points.
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Iafallo - Kopitar - Toffoli
Pearson - Kempe - Brown
Clifford - Mitchell - Lewis
Gaborik - Shore - Andreoff
Gravel - Doughty
Muzzin - Martinez
Forbort - Folin
Forsberg - Johansen - Arvidsson
Fiala - Turris - Smith
Hartnell - Bonino - Jarnkrok
Salomaki - Sissons - Watson
Josi - Ellis
Emelin - Subban
Ekholm - Weber
Opposing Preview: On the Forecheck