Kings begin brief trip in Nashville
Sunday, 02.26.2012 / 6:44 PM
David Kalan - NHL.com Staff WriterKINGS (28-22-12) at PREDATORS (36-19-7)
: FS-W (HD), FS-TN
: Los Angeles 3-5-2; Nashville 5-2-3.
: The Kings have won their only meeting with the Predators this season, edging Nashville 4-3 at the Staples Center on Nov. 8, 2011.
: It's unusual for two teams to see each other as much over the season's final quarter as these two will. With three games yet to be played between Nashville and Los Angeles, how each of these teams fares against the other will go a long way toward settling the NHL's 2012 postseason field, and both the Preds and Kings will have a chance to fire their first shot over the bow in what figures to be a very important season series over the final six weeks of the 2011-12 campaign.
: It's no secret that Los Angeles has had trouble scoring so far this season. Through much of the season the offense has been completely stagnant, putting much of the pressure to win on the back of goalie Jonathan Quick
, and as a result, the wins have been few and far between for the Kings lately. L.A. had won just three of its first 12 games in February alone. That may have all changed last Thursday, though, as Kings general manager Dean Lombardi made what was easily the biggest trade of the season so far -- and may hold the title once Monday's deadline has passed -- sending defenseman Jack Johnson and a conditional first-round pick to Columbus for winger Jeff Carter
The result in Carter's first game Saturday night didn't feature Carter on the score sheet, but the Kings responded with an impressive 4-0 drubbing of the Chicago Blackhawks. That kind of breakout, as well as the addition of Carter, should give hope to the Kings faithful in the postseason chase. L.A. is two points behind Dallas for the West's eighth spot, but the Kings hold a game in hand and with 20 games left on the schedule, Carter could give L.A. the boost it needs to turn its tenuous standing into a certain playoff berth.
: Nashville doesn't seem to have the same concerns as the Kings. With 79 points the Predators are comfortable ensconced in the West's fifth position and are just four points behind division-rival St. Louis for the fourth seed. As well, with a 3-0-1 mark in their last four games and a big 6-2 win over the Sharks Saturday night, the Predators look to be in good position to prepare for a deep postseason run.
That said, with the deadline passing on Monday, there is a good chance the Predators could be a different team than they were the last time they took the ice Saturday night. And with rumors surfacing Sunday that Nashville could be a surprise entrant in the Rick Nash sweepstakes, there's a chance the Preds could look not just different, but significantly different by the time the puck drops.
: Martin Erat
has a goal and three assists in the last three games for Nashville. ... After a huge hat trick performance Saturday night, L.A.'s Dustin Brown
-- who has also been the subject of trade rumors -- has four goals and two assists in his last three games.
: Kevin Westgarth
is questionable for the Kings with a bruised hand, while Simon Gagne
is still out with a concussion he suffered in late December. Nashville is missing Brian McGrattan
, who has been on IR since early this month with an upper-body injury.
: Kings goalie Jonathan Quick
could have his work cut out for him Monday night. Nashville's 2.79 goals per game is already the tenth best mark in the League, but the Predators have been particularly hot lately, averaging 3.5 goals per game over their last four outings.
: While Nashville appears a safe bet to be in the postseason field, the Kings look set to be in a fight down to the season's final games. As L.A. jockeys for position it has a sizable obstacle of having five fewer regulation and overtime wins than Dallas, but if the Kings can craft back-to-back victories over Conference-title contenders like Chicago and Nashville, it could propel them on a hot streak that makes a battle for the conference's final berth an afterthought.