Predators-Kings Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 30, 2013
The Los Angeles Kings got off to a sluggish start, but the reigning Stanley Cup champs are starting to pick up some points. A matchup with the Nashville Predators could help them earn two more. Los Angeles goes for a third straight victory Thursday night when the Predators try to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat. Since opening with three straight losses for the first time since 1985-86, the Kings (2-2-1) have posted back-to-back victories. Still, Los Angeles is a work in progress - it has scored 10 goals and converted a league-worst 3.7 percent (1 for 27) on the power play. Jeff Carter scored the team's first power-play goal in Monday's 3-2 shootout home win over Vancouver. "We're still not the way we were in June last year, but we're getting there,'' said center Anze Kopitar, who set up Slava Voynov's game-tying goal with 43.2 seconds left in regulation on Monday. "It's definitely a step in the right direction. We still have to work on things, and everyone in here thinks we can crank it up a notch. We just want to make sure we build on this win and roll ahead.'' While the Kings look to build momentum for a five-game trip that begins Saturday at Anaheim, the Predators (1-2-3) are making their fifth stop on a franchise high-tying seven-game trip. Nashville opened that stretch with a 3-1 victory over Minnesota on Jan. 22, but has found the back of the net just two more times since - both in Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Ducks. The Predators after are averaging a Western Conference-low 1.67 goals following Monday's 4-0 loss to Phoenix. "You've got to fight to get in the interior,'' said coach Barry Trotz, whose team next plays at home on Feb. 7 against Los Angeles. "For the most part, Phoenix deflected the attack pretty well, but when you're getting deflected to the outside all the time you've got to fight to get in the interior. We didn't get enough interior play and therefore we didn't cause enough havoc.'' "Sometimes you've got to get greasy goals,'' he added. "We're not willing to get greasy goals.'' The Predators won't be getting anything from Patric Hornqvist for the next three to four weeks after he suffered a sprained knee Saturday. Four of Hornqvist's team-leading 27 goals last season came against Los Angeles, which won three of four matchups with Nashville, including both at Staples Center. Without Hornqvist, who has a team-high three assists, the Predators will need Martin Erat, Mike Fisher, David Legwand, defenseman Shea Weber (no points) among others to pick up the scoring. If they don't, that could leave little room for error for goaltender Pekka Rinne (0-2-3), who has a 1.34 goal-support average. The Finn has lost five of his last six starts to Los Angeles after winning his first four in this series. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, one start shy of 250, made 22 saves in a 5-4 road win over Nashville on March 6 for his first victory in six starts against the Predators. Quick, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner, has given up two goals in each of the last three games to help Los Angeles earn at least one point each time. "Any time you get two points, you get a little boost of confidence, but it's only good for tonight,'' Quick said Monday. "It's a playoff race right now, and every point is huge.''
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