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Predators will try to slow down high-octane Kings

by Brian Hunter /

PREDATORS (6-7-1) at KINGS (10-4-2)

Last 10 -- Nashville 4-5-1; Los Angeles 6-2-2

Season series --
First of four meetings this season. Nashville swept Los Angeles last season, with the Kings gaining their lone point courtesy of a 4-3 overtime loss in the most recent matchup on April 8. Predators defenseman Shea Weber led both sides with three goals. Dan Ellis and Pekka Rinne each won a pair of games in net for Nashville.

Big story --
It's been three weeks since the Kings have failed to pick up at least a point in a game, with their record 6-0-2 after falling 4-1 in Columbus on Oct. 17. Anze Kopitar has surged to the NHL lead in scoring with 26 points, and his 13 goals is just one behind Alex Ovechkin. The Predators won't be facing the same team they repeatedly got the better of last season.

Team Scope:

Predators --
A 6-5 overtime win in Ottawa back on Oct. 22 seemed to wake up the slumbering Nashville offense and sent the team on a stretch of four wins in five games. But the Predators were once again stymied on Thursday in Anaheim, losing 4-0 as goalie Jonas Hiller put on a clinic and stopped 40 shots. Weber and J.P. Dumont both missed the game due to injuries, and the power play turned in an 0-for-5 performance.

"It wasn't as sharp, no question," coach Barry Trotz said. "We couldn't capitalize on our power-play chances. I didn't think we got enough traffic in front on the early power plays. Later on, we tried to do that a little more, but they did a good job defending it."

Kings --
Kopitar scored early and late in a 5-2 win Thursday over defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh. He got Los Angeles going with a goal just 27 seconds into the game, then sparked a four-goal rally in the third. Defenseman Rob Scuderi, who signed with the Kings in the offseason after helping the Penguins win the Cup, was part of a team-wide effort that held Sidney Crosby off the scoresheet.

"There was no special strategy," coach Terry Murray said. "We’re looking at our forecheck game, and a big part of our responsibility is that high third man, is to cover over the center iceman. We ask that against any team that we play, but I think there’s greater awareness when you have the elite player, that Crosby is, out on the ice against you.

"That third guy in the offensive zone, in the middle of the ice, was well taken care of. I thought every one of our forwards, against them, read that the right way."

Who's hot -- Dumont has two goals and nine points in his last five games and leads the Predators in scoring this season with 11 points despite playing in only nine games. They could certainly use his help against the Kings.

Kopitar and linemate Ryan Smith (20 points) have been lighting it up all season, but the emergence of goalie Jonathan Quick, whose 10 wins have him among the League leaders, should not be overlooked.

Injury report --
On the Nashville side, Dumont hurt himself in practice earlier this week. Weber's sore foot could keep him out for a week or two. Martin Erat has been out with a lower-body injury but is nearing his return. Los Angeles currently has a healthy roster.

Stat pack --
Second-year Predators forward Patric Hornqvist was responsible for a quarter of the shots Hiller stopped Thursday, putting 10 pucks on net. Hornqvist leads the team this season with 53 shots.

Puck drop --
Nashville finished 20th in the League last season with 2.52 goals per game and is currently tied with Carolina for the lowest scoring output this season at 1.93 goals per game. It's left Ellis and Rinne with precious little margin for error, and could make for a rough going against the potent Los Angeles offense unless some scorers step it up.

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