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Game Day: Preds vs. Kings

by Brooks Bratten / Nashville Predators

(42-20-7) Nashville Predators vs. Los Angeles Kings (33-21-13)
  9 P.M. | Staples Center
TV: FS-TN | Radio: 102.5 The Game

The Nashville Predators traveled down the California coast and are set to face the Los Angeles Kings tonight from Staples Center, the third and final meeting between the two clubs this season.

After snapping their six-game skid on Monday against the Coyotes, the Preds fell 2-0 to the Sharks on Thursday, in what was one of Nashville's more complete efforts in the past couple of weeks. The Predators registered 35 shots on goal, but all of them were turned away by Antti Niemi.

Preds defenseman Roman Josi tallied a game-high seven blocked shots versus San Jose, tying a career high that he has hit three times before (most recently in a 4-1 win at Edmonton on Oct. 29, 2014). This season, Josi has blocked 188 shots, a mark that leads the Preds and is second overall in the NHL.

On the season, Josi has 47 points (11g-36a), first among Preds blueliners and sixth among defensemen League wide. The Bern, Switzerland, native’s 36 assists tie him for fifth in the category among defensemen and his +15 plus-minus is in the League’s Top 15 defenders.

Mike Ribeiro took sole possession of the Preds’ team points lead (13g-41a-54pts) last Saturday against Winnipeg. Ribeiro’s 54 points are the most he has tallied since 2011-12 with Dallas (18g-45a-63pts, 74gp). The Montreal native’s 41 assists this season also lead the team and put him in a tie for ninth overall in the NHL.

With 41 assists, Ribeiro is two shy of tying Cliff Ronning for second-most assists in a season by a Preds center (43, 2000-01) and three from tying Jason Arnott for the top spot (44, 2007-08). With 13 games left to play in the regular season, Ribeiro is 13 assists from matching Paul Kariya for most helpers in franchise history (54, 2005-06).

Pekka Rinne is second in the NHL with 36 wins this season and is in the Top Five in both save percentage (.927) and goals-against average (2.09). Rinne is the only goaltender to have played 10 or more overtime frames and maintain a 1.000 save percentage and a 0.00 goals-against average (13 overtimes played, 27 saves).

The Kings are led on the offensive side of the puck by Anze Kopitar, who has tallied 52 points in 64 games this season. Jeff Carter leads the club in goals with 23, and Kopitar, Carter, Tyler Toffoli, Marian Gaborik Drew Doughty, Justin Williams and Jake Muzzin have all eclipsed the 30-point mark on the campaign.

Jonathan Quick leads the way in net for the defending champs with a 29-17-11 record to go along with a 2.32 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage. Los Angeles is 4-0-1 in their last five outings and, with 79 points, are currently fighting to maintain a playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Preds take to the ice in Los Angeles for the first game of their 10th back-to-back series of the season and their sixth back-to-back series to consist of two road games (Nashville plays in Anaheim on Sunday). This is the second time this season that the Preds have faced the Kings and Ducks on consecutive evenings; on Jan. 3 and 4, the Preds finished 1-0-1 in the set.

On the season, the Preds are 5-1-3 on the front end of back-to-back matchups and 3-4-2 on the back end. Nashville has one remaining back-to-back set on its regular season schedule, playing in Washington on March 28 and returning to Nashville to take on Calgary on March 29.
 
The Preds have won 15 of 24 games against the Kings since the beginning of the 2008-09 season (15-8-1), including both of the previous contests this season. All-time, Nashville is 28-25-(3)-4 against L.A and 16-11-(0)-3 at the Staples Center.

Quotables:

Matt Cullen on if there is satisfaction with Thursday's effort against San Jose:

"We did a lot of good things [against the Sharks], but not quite enough. As a team, we can't allow ourselves to be satisfied with a good effort; there's no such thing as a moral victory anymore. At this point, we need to find a way to win those and we need to win the special teams battle, which is so often the crux of every game here down the stretch...we just need to find a way to raise our level."

Ryan Ellis on working himself back into the lineup after missing time with an injury:

"Everything is starting to come back here. Playing back with [Mattias Ekholm], he's made it really easy on me. He's a great player and easy to play with, so I think our chemistry is coming back, and for the most part, we've been playing pretty well. For our pairing especially, we just have to start chipping in more offense and helping out, because goals are hard to come by right now."

Peter Laviolette on facing a desperate team every night:

"Every game is the same right now. Are [the Kings] more desperate than San Jose? I don't know. Are they going to be more desperate than Minnesota when we get home? I don't know. Every game seems to have the same feel to it right now; there's not a lot of time and space and it's very competitive. It's heavy in the battles, and I think we've responded well to those battles in those games. We've got to change the scoreboard is what we've got to do."
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