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Kings continue pursuit of eighth against Predators

by Brian Hunter
KINGS (30-23-12) at PREDATORS (38-20-7)


Last 10:
Los Angeles 4-4-2; Nashville 6-2-2

Season Series: Third of four meetings. Each side has won a one-goal game on its home ice. Simon Gagne had the decisive tally in the Kings' 4-3 victory on Nov. 8, while Patric Hornqvist scored the winning goal as the Predators prevailed 2-1 on Feb. 27.

Big Story: As the Sharks have scuffled, the Kings have won three of their last four games to pull within one point of their Pacific Division rivals for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff berth -- although Los Angeles has also played one additional game. While the Kings only average 2.12 goals per game, they recently moved past Minnesota and out of 30th in the NHL in that category -- and the wild card in their lineup, trade-deadline acquisition Jeff Carter, scored his first goals Saturday in his fourth game with the team.

Team Scope:

Kings: As much focus as Los Angeles' scoring woes have been given, it's worth noting that the Kings also rank third in the League with a 2.03 team goals-against average, thanks in large part to the remarkable season being enjoyed by Jonathan Quick (1.92 GAA, .932 save percentage, 7 shutouts). Getting two goals in a game against Quick -- as the Ducks did on Saturday -- is a feat in itself, but thanks to Carter's two second-period goals, an earlier power-play goal by Dustin Brown and an empty-netter by Anze Kopitar, the Kings still came away with a 4-2 victory.

"I think it helped our confidence offensively," Brown said about the addition of Carter. "We can throw line after line out there that can score goals … it can make it doubly hard for an opposing team. They can't just key on the centermen or (Kopitar's) line. For a while there they were keying on Kopi and trying to shut Kopi down.

"Now that we have Carter here -- him and Richie (Brad Richards) have some chemistry -- they're going to have to pick and choose."

Predators: This is the start of a three-game homestand for Nashville, which has settled into the fifth spot in the West, six points behind Detroit for fourth and four points ahead of Chicago for sixth. The Predators scored a 3-1 win over the Southeast-leading Panthers on Saturday, getting a prototypical brilliant goaltending effort from Pekka Rinne. His 39-save effort included 15 stops in a first period when the Predators were thoroughly outplayed but still escaped with a lead on an Andrei Kostitsyn goal. Mike Fisher then extended the lead 28 seconds into the middle period.

"So far, it's so much fun to play," said Rinne, whose 36th win of the season tied Tomas Vokoun's single-season franchise record. "We're coming together as a team. We've got a young group of guys and with the few experienced guys, we're having so much fun."

Who's Hot: Brown has 5 goals and 3 assists during a four-game points streak for the Kings. Kopitar has 2 goals and 2 assists during a three-game points streak. Quick has allowed just four goals over his last three starts, posting a .949 save percentage. … David Legwand has 1 goal and 4 assists during a four-game points streak for the Predators. Rinne is 5-0-1 in his last six starts with a .952 save percentage. He's gone eight starts without allowing more than two goals.

Injury Report: Gagne (concussion) hasn't played since Dec. 26 and remains on injured reserve for Los Angeles. … Nashville defenseman Ryan Ellis (flu-like symptoms) missed Saturday's game. Fellow blueliner Kevin Klein (upper body) has been out the last three games.

Stat Pack: Carter has scored 5 of his 17 goals this season against the Predators, although they all came while he was still a member of the Blue Jackets. He was held off the board in the Feb. 27 meeting between these teams. … Kostitsyn's goal Saturday was the 100th of his career. It was also his first point in his second game since joining the club in a trade from the Canadiens, and he added an assist on Legwand's goal for a multi-point effort.

Puck Drop: Kostitsyn was a streak scorer in Montreal, and the hope in Nashville is that he'll find his game with additional playing time and supplement the League's 10th-ranked offense. Early returns have been positive.

"The way he shoots the puck, you have to just take your hat off to him," defenseman Ryan Suter said.
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