By Dan Pieringer
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) -- The Nashville Predators know points
are at a premium with only eight games left to make their push
for the playoffs. Leaving points on the table during a streak of
three straight non-regulation losses wasn't helping their cause.
After snapping that skid by defeating one of the NHL's top
teams, the Predators look to record a point in their seventh
straight game and complete their first season series sweep of
the Los Angeles Kings when the clubs square off Saturday night
at the Sommet Center.
Nashville (36-30-8) has gone 16-7-5 since the All-Star break to
pull into contention in the tightly packed Western Conference
That crowded postseason chase makes the Predators' recent missed
opportunities particularly costly. They fell 4-3 in overtime at
Anaheim on March 18, 3-2 in a shootout at San Jose the next day
and 2-1 in a shootout at home against the Ducks on Tuesday
Nashville, though, ended that stretch with a 3-2 home victory
over the Pacific Division-leading Sharks on Thursday night.
"Everybody talks about having the opportunities and just
embracing the opportunities," Predators coach Barry Trotz said.
"We are pretty close to the finish line and there is no reason
to make any excuses."
Six Nashville players recorded at least one point as the
Predators overcame a 2-0 deficit Thursday. Radek Bonk got a
power-play goal to open the team's scoring at 7:34 of the second
period, Martin Erat scored less than two minutes later and Bonk
assisted on Greg Zanon's game-winner at 10:12 of the second.
"Playing as a team is how we are going to win," Trotz said. "It
is not going to be one individual putting us on his back. It's
going to be what you saw tonight with all of our guys pulling
together with all they have."
Trotz has to like the way his team has played against Los
Angeles (31-33-10) this season. The Predators have averaged 4.0
goals in winning the first three meetings, most recently 4-3 on
the road March 16. Nashville took its only previous home game
against Los Angeles 5-4 on Oct. 25.
Despite their struggles against the Predators and the fact
they're in 13th place in the West, the Kings haven't given up on
being a factor in the playoff race down the stretch.
They snapped a three-game losing streak on Justin Williams'
third-round shootout goal in a 1-0 win at Dallas on Thursday
night, improving to 2-3-0 in the first five games of a
season-high six-game road trip.
Williams, who's played only four games with Los Angeles since he
was acquired from Carolina early this month, thinks the Kings
will need to solve the Predators to keep their playoff hopes
"We can't lose a game," he said. "We know we have to win out to
have a chance."
Kings goaltender Jon Quick, who's likely to start Saturday, has
never faced the Predators, while Nashville's Pekka Rinne gave up
three goals in last week's win in Los Angeles - his first career
game against the Kings.
Nashville right wing J.P. Dumont has seven goals and nine
assists in his last 11 games against Los Angeles, including two
goals and three assists in three meetings this season.