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Preview: Predators at Kings (3/14)

Location: Staples Center (Los Angeles, California)

Game Time: 2:00 pm Central

TV: FSN

Radio: 97.1 FM

Records:

Nashville: 37-26-5 (79)

Los Angeles: 40-22-5 (85)

Season Series:

11/7/09 – NSH 3 – LAK 1

3/4/10 – LAK 2 – NSH 4

Not Your Father’s Kings: The Predators rise to a yearly playoff contender has coincided with the Kings’ fall to the back-of-the-pack in the Western Conference. The Kings have not made the playoffs in 6 seasons and have finished last in their division in the last two seasons. In fact, in 2008-09, the Kings tied the Lightning for the lowest point total in the league. Needless to say, this team has dropped a long, long way from the Gretzky era. Nevertheless, the Kings are right in the thick of the hunt this season, 5th in the conference and tied for 2nd in the Pacific with Phoenix. Unless they have an epic collapse down the stretch, they need just 5 more points to have their best season since their last playoff season (2001-02). While no one would go as far as to call them a “lock”, barring the aforementioned epic collapse, it does appear likely at this point that the Kings are on their way to their first playoff appearance in almost a decade, as they sit on a 9 point cushion with 15 games to play.

Regicide: Perhaps one of the reasons that Predators fans may not have noticed the recent resurgence of the Kings is that the Predators apparently have decided not to recognize it. Going into Sunday afternoon’s game, the Kings have not recorded a win against the Predators in two full calendar years. The Kings’ last win against Nashville was a 4-1 triumph on March 13, 2008, in the then-Sommet Center. The Kings have not beaten the Predators at the Staples Center since October 23, 2007 – a 4-game span. The Preds’ current total win streak over the Kings stands at 6. Most importantly, however, is the shift in power since the lockout. Prior to the lockout in 2004-05, the Predators played the Kings 24 times, winning just 6 games. If you throw out the first season where the Predators won 3 times, it means that in a 20 game stretch, the Predators only managed to beat the Kings 3 times. In the 22 games since the lockout, however, the Predators have beaten the Kings 13 times.

The Quick and the Dead: There has never been a doubt that Jonathan Quick showed promise as an NHL goalie. After the Kings spent several seasons playing Whack-a-Goalie with the likes of Jason LaBarbera, Dan Cloutier, Erik Ersberg, and Mathieu Garon, they finally appear to have a full-time goalie in Quick. Consider this: last season, the Kings finished second to last in the conference with 79 points. Quick was the goalie of record in 41 games, finishing with a 21-18-2 record. Without Quick, the Kings record was 13-19-9.  As expected, this year, in Quick’s first full season, the Kings have become a contender. Quick has posted the exact same GAA (2.48) that he did last season. Through 60 games played, Quick has a 37-19-4 record, meaning that he already has more wins than 5 of the last 6 Kings squads.

Rebound: One way to rebound from tying a franchise record for most goals scored is to come back and do the exact opposite. Since there is no lower score possible, the Predators bounced back from giving up a record-tying 8 goals to allowing a record-tying 0 goals on Friday. The win on Friday guaranteed that, regardless of Sunday’s outcome, the Predators will return from the four-game road trip with a .500 or better record.

Daytime Road Warriors: This marks the fifth day game of the season for the Predators. They are 4-0 on the road and 0-1 at home. Over the last two seasons, the Preds are 6-0 during road games that start before 5 pm, while 0-2 at home. Since the lockout, the Predators are an incredible 10-1-4 during on the road day games. That’s right, in the last 5 years, the Predators have only failed to register a point in just one single daytime road game (against the Wings on March 9, 2008).

Other Notes: Legwand Watch 2010 continues on Sunday as his goal drought is now at 26 games…Jonathan Quick is expected to be in the lineup for the Kings after missing Friday night’s game due to the birth of his first child, a girl…a scheduling anomaly means that despite having less than a month left in the season, the Preds series against the Kings is only halfway done: there is still one more game at the Bridgestone Arena on March 30…after Sunday’s road game, the Predators play 9 of their last 13 at home.