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In the last five minutes of the Saturday contest against the Sharks, the Predators played very well. Unfortunately, the game consists of three 20-minute periods and therein lies the problem facing Nashville. So far, the Predators have owned L.A. in the season series with the Kings losing in regulation 3-0 against Nashville and dropping a decision in an eight-round shootout on Kostitsyn’s brilliant fake-out of Jonathan Quick. But the same could be said about the Sharks who won 2-1 two nights ago and the sobering fact is Nashville has lost 4 of their last five games, many in dubiously lop-sided fashion.
The Kings were red hot in February going 8-4-0 and winning their last five of the month, however, Vancouver slammed L.A. at the first of March by a score of 5-2. Jonathan Quick is still getting the bulk of the starts for L.A. and while his is not on a torrid pace compared to last year, he still keeps L.A. in games and shuts the offensive chances off from opponents with regularity.
Anze Kopitar continues to lead the Kings in points with 18. His size and on-ice vision allow him to set up teammates effortlessly while having soft hands for a scoring touch when needed as he is exceptional on the breakaway. Jeff Carter is a goal scoring machine tallying 13 points with 11 of them being goals. He is stingy with the puck and creates havoc for Nashville in every matchup. His play is similar to Pavel Datsyuk as he is able to carve up Nashville’s defense and keep them reeling while pouring shot-after-shot on the goaltender.
The Predators are being out-hustled, out-shot and basically out-played in every area of the ice. Only a few times a game with players like Smith, Bourque, Wilson and occasionally Fisher and Hornqvist do the fans get to see the Predators truly come out to try to score. Most other occasions involves coughing up the puck in the neutral zone, the basic dump-and-chase that is not working and a weak cycle game with no one in front of the net to capitalize.
Wilson, Bourque, Smith and Hornqvist are taking the offense on their shoulders and trying to muster the slightest bit of offensive zone pressure while putting quality shots on goal. Players like Legwand and Erat are consistently turning the puck over and when they do skate into the zone, the curl and wait maneuver or skate-behind-the-net and lose the puck technique are becoming all too predictable. A shake-up needs to happen and it seems that the younger, faster forwards on the roster are the ones scoring and creating opportunities.
It may be time with Yip missing a game or two to call up Beck or Watson from Milwaukee and see what they can do. Maybe bench Spaling who has not been playing the avid two-way forward he previously was known for and adding some offensive skill and speed in the Admirals forward core. Hannan is still not off the hot seat as he was on the ice (along with Spaling) for both San Jose power play goals. Hannan’s skating and lack of accountability while the other team is swarming is the primary reason he has the teams lowest plus/minus at -9 (Nick Spaling in 2nd with -6).
Gill is not the answer to replacing Scott Hannan but maybe Pile and Co. could initiate another Milwaukee call-up in Victor Bartley. Bartley was the only Admiral named to the AHL All-Star team this season and could bring his feisty play and scoring touch to a dysfunctional, anemic shooting squad in the Predators.
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