Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter admits he has a healthy respect for Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz. Both men are among the longest-tenured and most-respected bench bosses in the NHL, having each coached in over 1,000 games. A picture of consistency since being named Nashville's first head coach in 1998, Trotz has proven himself a formidable foe, even for a Stanley Cup-winning coach like Sutter.
That chess match between these two should be on full display as the Kings visit Nashville Thursday night.
"I don't like coaching against him. He's a good coach," Sutter said Thursday. "Part of the challenge in this League is there are probably about seven, eight really experienced guys that are pretty successful guys, and he's one of them."
Los Angeles is 7-3-1 against Nashville since 2010-11 and would like nothing more than to continue that success Thursday in Music City. The Kings absorbed their most humbling defeat of the season on Tuesday, falling behind 3-0 to the Tampa Bay Lightning before losing 5-1. But Sutter acknowledges the Predators team he will face Thursday isn't necessarily the team L.A. has enjoyed so much success against in recent seasons.
After being known for years as a steady, veteran-heavy unit, the Predators have a number of new faces in their lineup. Up front, the team features recent free-agent signings Viktor Stalberg, Matt Cullen, Eric Nystrom and Matt Hendricks, not to mention top prospect Filip Forsberg, who was acquired from the Washington Capitals for Martin Erat at last year's Trade Deadline. Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers, Nashville featured four defensemen (Victor Bartley, Seth Jones, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm) with less than a full season's worth of NHL experience.
That new and youthful look is something Sutter admits he isn't used to from a Trotz-coached team.
"I would say their four new wingers are substantial, and Cullen's substantial, and obviously Seth in the back end is substantial, and Ekholm is substantial," Sutter said when asked about Nashville's roster changes from last season. "Two Swedish boys [Forsberg and Ekholm], the boy from Chicago [Stalberg], and the first-round pick they got in the trade [Forsberg] replaced [Andrei] Kostitsyn and [Martin] Erat, so that's substantial. I think Eric Nystrom and Matt Hendricks are substantial."
Here is the projected lineup for the Kings, according to Jon Rosen of LaKingsInsider.com: