Skip to main content

Predators-Kings Preview

NHL.com @NHL

The loss of goaltender Tomas Vokoun to an injury may be starting to catch up with Chris Mason and the Central Division-leading Nashville Predators.

Nashville looks to avoid losing a season-high fourth straight game when it continues a four-game road trip at Staples Center against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.

The Predators (17-7-3) have dropped four straight and eight of nine, including three shutouts, in Los Angeles since March 2001.

Vokoun, the franchise's all-time wins leader with 145, suffered a torn ligament in his left thumb during a 6-0 win over Vancouver on Nov. 23 and isn't expected to return until the end of the month.

With Mason in net, Nashville outscored its opponents 14-8 while winning three in a row. During the losing streak, however, Mason has surrendered 11 goals while the Predators have scored just five times.

Nashville was shut out for the third time this season - all on the road - after a 4-0 loss to Anaheim on Wednesday as Mason finished with 28 saves.

To give Mason a rest, Nashville coach Barry Trotz may start Michael Leighton in goal. Leighton, claimed off waivers from Anaheim on Nov. 27, hasn't played in the NHL since 2004 with Chicago and is 8-21 with 10 ties and a 2.96 goals-against average in his two-year career.

Paul Kariya's recent struggles also have mirrored the Predators' recent slide. Kariya, who spent his first nine seasons with the Ducks, was booed by Anaheim fans, didn't have a shot on goal and had a tripping penalty late in the game that led to Chris Kunitz's power-play goal.

"I think he presses a little bit when he plays them because he started his career here and he wants to do well against them," Trotz said of Kariya, who has one assist in his last three games. "I think everyone in the other room recognizes that Paul is a quality player and they try to shut him down."

One team that has struggled to shut Kariya down is Los Angeles (10-15-4). Kariya has four goals and an assist in a three-game points streak against the Kings. He's posted career-bests with 28 goals and 59 points in 51 games against them.

Despite the recent slide, Nashville still has a three-point lead over second-place Detroit in the Central Division.

Los Angeles (10-15-4) earned a split of its home-and-home series with Anaheim after a 3-2 win on Sunday behind two goals from Alexander Frolov. The Kings ended a seven-game losing streak against the Ducks, including the three earlier meetings this season capped by a 4-3 loss on Los Angeles on Saturday.

"Sometimes it's fortunate for a team when you're playing a top club, you know you have to be great to beat them," Kings coach Marc Crawford said. "We're very deserving of the win. We played hard and played physically and won with big hits. We did the right things."

Frolov has scored 11 goals at home this season, but has failed to find the back of the net in his last two contests there after a four-game streak in which he scored seven goals.

Lubomir Visnovsky has a goal and five assists during a season-high five-game points streak, but he's been better at home. The defenseman has tallied a point in six straight games at Staples Center with two goals and seven assists in that span.

Visnovsky is tied with Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom for fifth in scoring among defensemen this season with 22 points.

Frolov had two goals and an assist and Visnovsky a career-best three assists in the Kings' 6-4 win over the Predators on March 25.

View More