GAME: Nashville Predators (42-20-8) at Los Angeles Kings (37-28-5).
TIME: Saturday, 10:30 p.m. EST.
John Torchetti's mission of guiding the Los Angeles Kings into the playoffs for the first time in four years begins as he makes his coaching debut against the Nashville Predators at the Staples Center.
Torchetti was hired Tuesday as interim coach of the Kings when general manager Dave Taylor fired Andy Murray.
Los Angeles is only one point behind the Edmonton Oilers for eighth place in the Western Conference, but the Kings have lost five of their last seven games.
"This is a drastic step, but we're looking to turn things around," Taylor said. "If we did nothing, I felt we were going to continue in this downward direction."
Taylor didn't want to see his team recreate a total collapse like it did in 2003-04, when the Kings lost their last 11 games.
Los Angeles has six more home games this season, and 11 of its 12 remaining games are against teams either assured of a playoff berth or battling for one.
"Im looking forward to the challenge," Torchetti said at his press conference Tuesday. "The next 12 games... I want to enjoy the ride."
The Kings have been outscored 28-12 in their last seven games and have only converted 4-of-49 power-play opportunities in those games.
"The solution is going to fall in this locker room," captain Mattias Norstrom said. "I hope with a coaching change you will have 23 players that will want to impress the new boss. We need the very best from every single guy to make it into the playoffs."
Los Angeles hasn't made the playoffs since the 2001-02 season, and is coming off a 5-0 loss Monday to the Colorado Avalanche.
Mark Parrish has only one goal in seven games since joining Los Angeles from the Islanders, and is in the midst of a season-high, five-game goal-scoring drought.
Goaltender Mathieu Garon has started the last seven games, posting a 4.13 goals-against average and .866 save percentage in those games. He is 1-1 all-time against Nashville.
The Kings have won seven of their last eight home games against the Predators, though, including the last three.
Nashville lost to the Anaheim Ducks 6-3 on Friday, ending a five-game winning streak.
The Predators are 8-2-2 since the Olympic break, and still lead the Ducks by eight points for fourth in the Western Conference, the last spot to guarantee home-ice advantage in the first round.
Nashville outshot Anaheim 16-8 in the first period, but had only one goal - by Steve Sullivan - to show for it.
"I thought we had a really good first period and we didn't capitalize on our chances," Predators coach Barry Trotz said.
Sullivan also had an assist Friday, extending his points streak to a career-high and franchise-record nine games, totaling five goals and 11 assists in that span.
Goalie Tomas Vokoun was pulled after allowing five goals on 22 shots. Vokoun was 7-0-2 with a 1.85 GAA and two shutouts since the Olympic break before Friday's loss.
Vokoun is 2-0-1 this season against Los Angeles, but is just 1-3-1 lifetime at the Staples Center.
STANDINGS: Predators - 92 points, 2nd place, 10 PB, Central Division. Kings - 79 points, 3rd place, 18 PB, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Predators - Sullivan, 31 goals; Paul Kariya, 45 assists and 70 points; Brendan Witt, 166 PIM. Kings - Parrish, 25 goals; Lubomir Visnovsky, 44 assists and 61 points; Sean Avery, 236 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Predators - Power play: 18.6 percent (80 for 429), 9th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.3 percent (381 for 452), 6th. Kings - Power play: 14.7 percent (68 for 464), 27th. Penalty killing: 78.8 percent (334 for 424), 27th.
GOALTENDERS: Predators - Vokoun (35-15-7, 4 SO, 2.59 GAA); Chris Mason (6-4-1, 0, 3.12). Kings - Garon (28-20-3, 2, 3.13); Jason LaBarbera (9-8-2, 0, 3.22).
SEASON SERIES: Predators, 2-1.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 24; Predators, 4-3. At Nashville, Tenn., the Predators scored four goals in the first two periods and survived a three-goal rally by the Kings as Vokoun made 35 saves.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Predators - 15-14-7 on the road; Kings - 22-12-1 at home.