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Predators-Kings Preview @NHL
Predators-Kings Preview

GAME: Nashville Predators (8-2-2) at Los Angeles Kings (9-5-0).

TIME: Saturday, 4 p.m. EST.

The Nashville Predators look to end a four-game losing streak as they face the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center.

Three of those four losses have come on the road for the Predators, who opened the season with eight straight victories before an overtime loss at Columbus on Oct. 26 triggered their current slide.

The Predators were successful playing beyond regulation in the early going, securing three shootout victories en route to becoming just the third NHL team to win eight straight to open a season. They have a pair of overtime losses during their recent skid.

Nashville lost 3-2 at San Jose Wednesday, when Sharks center Alyn McCauley scored a short-handed goal 1:44 into overtime while the Predators had a 4-on-3 advantage. A third-period penalty preceded San Jose's tying goal, and Nashville penalties in the final period have set up key power-play goals in three of the four defeats.

"The last two games penalties have just killed us," left wing Paul Kariya said after the loss to the Sharks. "They got three or four power plays in the third period and finally got one. Then in overtime, we have a 4-3 advantage and they score - that's unacceptable."

The Predators, who have scored just four goals in their last three games, play a Los Angeles team that posted a pair of 3-0 shutouts over Nashville in 2003-04. The Kings have won six of their last seven games against the Predators, who have been blanked in three of the last five meetings.

The three goalies who shut out Nashville are no longer with the Kings, who have enjoyed early-season success with rookies Jason LaBarbera and Mathieu Garon. LaBarbera won his first seven starts for the first-place Kings, yet it wasn't until last week that either of them made back-to-back starts.

Coach Andy Murray has played down any thoughts of a goalie controversy or a need to have a No. 1 man.

"It's a challenge every game to show that they can keep it going at this level," said Murray. "We're going to keep using both of them."

Both netminders have been pulled from a start in the last week, with LaBarbera lasting only two periods of Thursday's 4-0 loss to Phoenix.

The Kings, who will be without injured forwards Luc Robitaille and Derek Armstrong, have yet to lose consecutive games this season.

STANDINGS (through Nov. 4): Predators - 18 points, 2nd place, 7 PB, Central Division. Kings - 18 points, 1st place, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Predators - Steve Sullivan, Kariya and Yanic Perreault, 5 goals; Sullivan, 8 assists and 13 points; Jeremy Stevenson, 46 PIM. Kings - Pavol Demitra, 8 goals; Lubomir Visnovsky, 12 assists and 18 points; Sean Avery, 36 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 4): Predators - Power play: 16.0 percent (12 for 75), 22nd in NHL. Penalty killing: 83.7 percent (67 for 80), 10th. Kings - Power play: 17.2 percent (15 for 87), 18th. Penalty killing: 83.8 percent (78 for 93), 9th.

GOALTENDERS: Predators - Tomas Vokoun (7-2-1, 0 SO, 2.67 GAA); Chris Mason (1-0-1, 0, 3.31). Kings - LaBarbera (7-2-0, 0, 2.21); Garon (2-3-0, 0, 3.24).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Kings, 3-0-1-0.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 23, 2004; Kings, 3-0. At Los Angeles, Ian Laperriere scored a pair of goals and Cristobal Huet stopped 21 shots for his third shutout of the 2003-04 season.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Predators - 3-1-2 on the road; Kings - 6-3-0 at home.

Associated Press
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