|Seeking division crown, Predators out to top Kings|
After hitting a speed bump Tuesday at the start of a three-game California trip, the Nashville Predators once again will try to build momentum for a run at the Central Division title.
The Predators will remain in Southern California for a game against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, two days after their late rally fell just short in a 3-2 defeat to the Anaheim Ducks.
That defeat prevented the Predators (39-27-5, 83 points) from jumping the Winnipeg Jets (40-25-4, 84 points) into first place in the division standings. The Jets also lost Tuesday, 5-4 to the San Jose Sharks, who the Predators will face in the finale of their trip on Saturday.
Predators left wing Filip Forsberg scored a pair of goals against the Ducks in a 58-second span of the third period. The issue was that they failed to find the net in the other 59 minutes, and an Anaheim team that is one of the worst offensively in the league earned the victory.
One particular Predators shortcoming was exposed as well. When the opponent scores first, Nashville has just 10 victories. When the Predators score first, they have 29 victories. That total is fourth best in the NHL.
In Tuesday's game, the Ducks not only scored first, they had a 3-0 lead in the second period. Goaltender Pekka Rinne even prevented a fourth goal when he saved a penalty shot by Ducks rookie Max Jones.
"There comes a time when then it's playoff time and you don't have time to fix a lot of things," Rinne said, according to The Tennessean. "I still love my teammates. I love this team. I couldn't be more confident, but there are things to figure out."
Now ahead for the Predators is the Kings, the worst team in the Western Conference, which gives Nashville a prime opportunity to get back on track. Los Angeles will enter Thursday's game well rested after last playing Sunday, though. And in that game, they defeated the same Ducks team that just beat Nashville.
The Kings do have two victories in five March games, hardly something to brag about, but considering they came into the month on a 10-game losing streak, it does reveal an upward trend.
Just how bad has it really been for the Kings since the start of the new year?
Los Angeles has not defeated a team either playoff eligible or within four points of a wild-card spot since they upended the St. Louis Blues 4-3 on Jan. 21. And even then, the Blues were a few days away from starting the 11-game winning streak that saved their season.
Thursday's game will be the third in the young career of Kings rookie Carl Grundstrom. He has a goal in each of his first two games, just the second Kings player all-time to pull off that feat.
"I think we play really good together," Grundstrom said, according to the Los Angeles Times, about playing on a line with Adrian Kempe and Tyler Toffoli. "(We) play fast and want the puck. It's real fun to play with these two guys."
Kings left wing Austin Wagner (lower body), who has not played since March 2, reportedly is close to a return. Predators defenseman Dan Hamhuis (lower body) and right wing Miikka Salomaki (upper body) are listed as day-to-day.
--Field Level Media