PREDATORS (9-8-5) at KINGS (10-7-2)
TV: NHLN-US, NHLN-CA, FS-TN, FS-W
Last 10: Nashville 4-5-1; Los Angeles 7-3-0
Season series: Third and final meeting of the regular season, with the Predators aiming for the season sweep. Sergei Kostitsyn had the decisive shootout goal in a 2-1 win in Los Angeles on Jan. 31, while Colin Wilson scored twice and Pekka Rinne stopped all 32 shots he faced for a 3-0 victory in Nashville on Feb. 7. Rinne has allowed one goal on 56 shots against the Kings this season.
Big story: Once you take the three division leaders (Chicago, Anaheim and Vancouver) out of the equation, it's a massive glut of teams all jockeying for playoff positioning in the Western Conference. Nashville enters Monday a point ahead of the defending Stanley Cup champions in the standings, and each team is trying to get back in the win column.
Predators: Depending on who's up and who's down, Nashville has bounced between second and fourth in the Central Division, battling it out with similarly inconsistent clubs in Detroit and St. Louis. The Predators have dropped the first two games on a California road trip that ends Monday, with their scoring woes once again coming back to bite them. They lost 5-1 in Anaheim and then 2-1 in San Jose, almost rallying as Gabriel Bourque's shorthanded goal with 5:30 left cut the deficit in half. Rinne's 37-save effort was wasted.
"I don't think any of us are really happy with the way we played," Rinne told The Tennessean after Saturday's loss. "Obviously it's a 2-1 game, it's a one-goal game. Yeah, it's a close game, but I don't think we played the way we wanted to play. I don't think we can lie to ourselves and look at the score. We need to just improve."
Kings: This is the start of a five-game homestand for Los Angeles, which plays 10 of its next 12 at Staples Center. The Kings will be looking to re-establish the momentum of a recent five-game winning streak which thrust them into the thick of things in the West. It was snapped Saturday in Vancouver, as the Canucks scored three unanswered goals to defeat the Kings 5-2. It will be interesting to see if coach Darryl Sutter goes back to Jonathan Bernier in goal Monday after Jonathan Quick allowed four goals on 23 shots against the Canucks.
"I just didn't stop the puck," Quick said. "I just didn't make enough saves for my team to give them a chance to win."
Who's hot: Anze Kopitar has two goals and seven assists during a five-game point-scoring streak for the Kings. Since going out without a point in his first two games this season, Kopitar has at least one point in 13 of the past 16 games.
Injury report: Nashville forward Brandon Yip (upper body) is day-to-day, while defenseman Hal Gill (lower body) is out indefinitely. … Los Angeles defensemen Willie Mitchell (knee) and Matt Greene (back) are on injured reserve.
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