Jason LaBarbera may be the more experienced goaltender, but Erik Ersberg has been the better one recently for the Los Angeles Kings.
Whoever gets the start on Saturday night will try to lead the Kings to their first five-game winning streak in nearly three years as they meet the resurgent Nashville Predators at Staples Center.
Coming off a career-best 17 wins in his third full season, LaBarbera has stumbled so far in 2008-09 by going 3-5-1 with a 3.01 goals-against average. He was pulled after allowing three goals in the first 12:48 of a 5-4 loss to Nashville on Oct. 25, and has lost three straight starts after that.
Ersberg, who had a 2.48 GAA in 14 games as a rookie with Los Angeles last season, stopped 10 of 12 shots the rest of the way during last month's loss to the Predators. He's started each game in the Kings' current run, allowing only nine goals, and won his only career appearance against Nashville late last season.
Ersberg turned aside 19 shots in the Kings' 3-2 home shootout win over Dallas on Tuesday. Two nights later, he had 26 saves as the Los Angeles capped a home-and-home sweep of the Stars by the same score.
"On the road in general it's tough," said Los Angeles' Dustin Brown, tied with Jarret Stoll for the team lead with six goals. "We came in here and grinded it out."
Under new coach Terry Murray, Los Angeles (7-6-2) has already matched its longest winning streak from 2007-08, when they failed to make the playoffs for the fifth straight year. The Kings haven't had a five-game run since Feb. 11-March 7, 2006.
After being blanked twice while losing three straight during their season-high six-game road trip, the Predators (8-7-1) can head home with a .500 mark on the swing. Dan Hamhuis' goal 2:17 into overtime on Friday lifted Nashville to its second straight triumph, 4-3 over the Ducks.
It was only the Predators' fourth win in 19 games at Anaheim.
"I think we've found out a lot about ourselves in the last few days," Hamhuis said. "We squeaked one out against San Jose when we didn't deserve to win, then we had a closed-door meeting yesterday because we were very disappointed in the way we'd been playing as a team.
"I think that really helped us. Tonight we played a much better team game."
Dan Ellis followed up a franchise-best 54-save performance in an overtime win over the Sharks on Tuesday by stopping 32 shots against the Ducks. Ellis is 3-1-0 with a 3.27 GAA in four career starts versus Los Angeles, but backup Pekka Rinne could make his first start since Nov. 1.
The rookie, though, hasn't made it past the first period in his two road starts this season - he gave up three goals in the first 14:26 of a 5-3 loss to Columbus on Oct. 17, and was tagged for four goals in less than 12 minutes during a 7-6 loss to Calgary on Nov. 6.
Rinne has never faced the Kings.
The Kings and Preds each posted decisive shutout victories in Los Angeles last season.
On Oct. 23, 2007, LaBarbera stopped 17 shots in the Kings' 6-0 win. Nashville returned the favor on Jan. 8 as Chris Mason, currently a backup in St. Louis, had 28 saves in the 7-0 rout.