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Kings try to stay hot as they visit Nashville

by John Kreiser

KINGS (38-20-4) at PREDATORS (34-23-5)

Last 10
-- Los Angeles 8-1-1; Nashville 5-3-2

Season series -- Amazingly, the teams are meeting for only the second time this season -- and the Kings are making their first visit to Music City. The clubs haven't met since the Predators beat the Kings 3-1 in L.A. on Nov. 7, Nashville's fifth win in a row over the Kings. They play twice more before the end of the month.

Big story -- The Olympic break did nothing to slow down the Kings, who came out of the break by smoking the Stars 5-1 in Dallas on Tuesday night to improve to 11-1-1 in their last 13 games. Five players scored goals and Jonathan Quick showed no rust from spending two weeks as a backup with the U.S. Olympic team, stopping 31 shots. The Predators also came out of the break with a win, fending off Edmonton 4-3.

Team Scope :

Kings -- The Kings' two young defensemen, Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty, both had impressive showings at the Olympics -- so much so that coach Terry Murray intends to ramp up their ice time down the stretch.

"We want to play those guys a lot," Murray told the Kings' Web site. "They're big, young guys who are powerful, strong players and have an impact on every game. The plan is to go with those guys and ride them as hard as we possibly can."

The Kings may have at least one of their deadline day acquisitions in the lineup. They landed center Jeff Halpern from TampaBay and forward Fredrik Modin from Columbus in separate deals designed to add depth up front.

Predators -- After two weeks of being teammates, Doughty and Nashville's Shea Weber will be on opposite sides when the puck drops at the Sommet Center. Weber was voted to the tournament All-Star team in Vancouver after an outstanding performance for Team Canada.

Weber had a power-play goal in the win over Edmonton on Tuesday.

"It's good to be back," he said. "I missed these guys having been away from them for two weeks. These guys are like my family, so it's really good to be back and to play these last 20 games."

Who's hot -- Jonathan Quick stopped 31 shots in the win at Dallas and improved to 11-1 in his last 12 starts with a 2.14 GAA. … Newcomer Denis Grebeshkov had a goal and an assist in his Nashville debut on Tuesday.

Injury report -- Andrei Loktionov (shoulder) and Justin Williams (broken right leg) are on injured reserve for the Kings. … Nashville defenseman Cody Franson, who's missed seven games with a broken rib, was reassigned to Milwaukee (AHL) along with Alexander Sulzer.

Stat pack -- The Kings' 80 points are one more than they earned all last season. They are tying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002. … The Predators have scored a power-play goal in a season-high seven games in a row, converting at a 29-percent clip during that span.

Puck drop -- The Kings' hot streak has made it all but certain that there will be postseason hockey at the Staples Center for the first time in eight years. The Predators, seventh in the West, need the two points more desperately and have had good success against the Kings in the last couple of years.

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