Kings Look For Perfect Road Trip As Playoff Push Continues
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(AP) – The Nashville Predators are brimming with confidence since they’re at home, while the Los Angeles Kings have been outstanding on this road trip.
The Predators seek a fourth straight home win Tuesday night when they try to end the Kings’ four-game run on the road.
Nashville (35-24-10) has a favorable closing stretch in which it plays 12 of its final 15 at home. The Predators opened this five-game homestand with two wins, 4-0 over Minnesota on Thursday and 4-2 over Colorado on Saturday.
“Bottom line is at the end of the year we got four points in these two games,” coach Barry Trotz said.
Nashville is in ninth place in the Western Conference, one point behind Calgary for the final playoff spot.
The homestand gets tougher now with visits from Los Angeles (39-25-5), Northeast Division leader Boston and Central Division leader Detroit.
“This week is huge,” right wing Joel Ward said. “We’re definitely looking forward to it. It’s a big challenge for us. We’ve got some tough teams coming into this building. We know it’s not going to be easy.”
The matchup with the Kings is no doubt the most important of the next three, as Los Angeles is three points ahead of the Predators in the West.
The Kings are trying to sweep their four-game trip after Sunday’s 3-2 win over Dallas. They allowed the tying goal with 43 seconds left in the third period before Michal Handzus responded with the winner 22 seconds later.
“It’s huge,” Handzus said. “It’s two points, and we need every point. Plus, they didn’t get a point. When you score that late, it’s a lot of fun.”
Anze Kopitar’s second-period assist gave him seven points during a four-game run. Dustin Penner has one point in five straight games.
Jonathan Quick and Jonathan Bernier have been receiving starts in recent games for the Kings. Bernier may be the better choice Tuesday since he’s 3-1-0 with a 1.75 goals-against average in four career starts against the Predators, while Quick is 0-3-1 with a 3.24 GAA in his four.
Pekka Rinne has lost his last two starts against the Kings after posting a 2.46 GAA in winning his first four.
Rinne has posted shutouts in two of his last five starts, and he made 36 saves Saturday to notch 25 wins for the third straight season.
“It’s a stat that tells that I’ve been playing with good players and I’ve been playing behind a really good team,” Rinne said. “I’m looking forward to getting a few more.”
Nashville is 0 for 8 on the power play on this homestand and owns one of the league’s worst marks at 14.8 percent. It won’t be easy to get untracked against the Kings, who have killed off 64 of opponents’ last 69 chances.
“I’m not worried about the power play,” Trotz said. “It’s doing a lot of good things, actually.”
Los Angeles has won two of three from Nashville, with Ryan Smyth and Jarret Stoll combining for eight points.
Updated March 14, 2011