Predators seek SoCal sweep vs. Kings
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LOS ANGELES -- The Nashville Predators will try to sweep their back-to-back Southern California set when they face the red-hot Los Angeles Kings on Saturday at Staples Center.
Coming off a Stanley Cup Final berth, Nashville (6-5-2) has struggled to find its stride in the first month of the season.
Production along the forward wall has been an issue for the Predators. Filip Forsberg leads the team in goal scoring with nine but he is the only forward to register more than three goals.
The biggest offensive disappointment has been Ryan Johansen, who signed an eight-year, $64 million contract extension in July but has not scored a goal.
The Predators took advantage of a short-handed Anaheim Ducks team on Friday night to break a two-game losing streak, winning 5-3 at Honda Center.
Roman Josi, who missed three games with an injury, registered a goal and an assist and Pekka Rinne made 35 saves on his 35th birthday for his sixth victory of the season.
Nashville defenseman Matt Irwin, who registered a goal, said that the key to his team's improved offense was getting traffic in front of the Anaheim net, a facet of their game that has been missing through their mediocre start.
"Any goalie in this league, when they see it there's a good chance they'll stop it," Irwin said. "To get traffic and second and third opportunities off rebounds and create chaos in front of the net is tough to defend."
Irwin was pleased to see Josi back in the lineup as the Predators' defensive depth has been challenged with the absence of top four defenseman Ryan Ellis.
"He's our leader, he's our rock back there," Irwin said. "He takes on heavy minutes against the other team's top lines and when he's rolling he's contributing offensively like he is right now. He's making plays that very few guys in this league can do from the back end."
Los Angeles (10-2-1) sits atop the Pacific Division and will attempt to remain undefeated in regulation play at home (5-0-1).
The Kings are in the midst of a friendly part of their schedule that sees them play nine of 12 home games and with three road contests in the Pacific Time Zone (in Anaheim, Las Vegas and Arizona).
Rookie Adrian Kempe has stepped up in the absence of All-Star center Jeff Carter to provide six goals while handling duties at center between wingers Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson. Their line was responsible for three goals in Thursday's 5-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs, avenging one of its regulation losses.
Kempe, the Kings' first-round pick in 2014, struggled after his initial recall last season, registering only two goals and four assists in 25 games. As it is with many Kings' players, the offseason coaching change to John Stevens from Darryl Sutter has impacted Kempe positively.
He enters Saturday with six goals and four assists and in playing with confidence not seen before.
"I think we came out right away and we played really hard and fast," Kempe said. "We got a couple goals there in the beginning, which I think was huge for our team. I think we could've played better overall tonight but it was a great effort by everybody. I think gave up too many chances and too many rushes in the Toronto game."
Another prospect, 21-year-old rookie center Michael Amadio, recalled on Oct. 26 to bolster Los Angeles' pivot position, scored his first NHL goal against Toronto. A third-round pick in the 2014 draft, the 21-year-old was a high-scoring junior player and acquitted himself well during his first professional season with the Kings AHL affiliate and is another example of the organization's newfound willingness to dot the veteran roster with younger talent. Just a few games into his NHL career, he is receiving high marks from Stevens.
"It's great to see Michael score his first NHL goal," Stevens said. "He's actually played well; that's why he's stayed in the lineup. He's a kid that scored lots from where he played in junior. He's very opportunistic around the net. It was a big goal for us in the hockey game too, but to see him get his first goal was great."
Updated November 4, 2017