With Jason Arnott and David Legwand
, two of Nashville’s three 20-goal scorers, likely out of the lineup for this weekend’s games, more of the offensive responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Martin Erat
and Steve Sullivan. Both are highly skilled offensive players who can put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses. Erat ranks fourth on the Preds in goals scored (17) and points (46) – just four points shy of his third consecutive 50-point campaign. Sullivan, just 33 games into his comeback after missing nearly two years due to injury, has returned to his pre-injury dominance with 15 points in his last 16 games. He was a catalyst for Nashville’s 5-0-0 homestand from February 24 – March 5 with four goals and nine points in those five games.
Erat and Sullivan will be matched up against a young Los Angeles defense. Five of the Kings six defensemen in their last two games are 25-years old or younger. Only 37-year old Sean O’Donnell are over 25. Rookie Drew Doughty is 19, while fellow rookie Davis Drewiske is 24. Jack Johnson is 22 and Kyle Quincy, claimed off waivers from Detroit at the start of the season, is 23. Matt Greene, with 225 career NHL games, is one of the greybeards of the defense corps at 25-years old.
The goaltending duo of Jonathan Quick and Erik Ersberg don’t bring much more experience to the defensive efforts. Ersberg, 27-years old with 41 career NHL game, is the relative veteran of the tandem, while Quick, 23-years old, has 40 career NHL games (37 of them this season).
LA’s young defense has held up admirably this season, allowing the second fewest shots on goal this season and ranking among the top-half of the league in goals against. However, the Kings have allowed 39 goals in their 13 games this month (not including one shootout goal), around a quarter of a goal per game more than they had been allowing earlier in the season.
With 756 and 476 career games of experience Sullivan and Erat, respectively, have more than twice as much experience as any LA defender outside of O’Donnell. If the creative Preds forwards can use that experience to their advantage, Nashville can generate several quality scoring chances.