Kings (6-5-3, 15 points) vs. Nashville Predators (7-4-2, 16 points) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Pressure cooker – And the streak marches on. The Kings lost their fifth consecutive game Monday night, 4-2, in San Jose, and cyberspace is abuzz with fans calling for the departure of Kings coach Terry Murray. Of course, Murray survived two similar slumps last season but that was before the organization added high-scoring forwards Dustin Penner, Simon Gagne and Mike Richards, players who were supposed to crank up the offense and put a lid on any lengthy losing streaks. Well, the Kings have managed three goals or more in just four of 14 games this season.
2. Bernier time – Nothing has been confirmed but it’s very likely the Kings will start back-up goalie Jonathan Bernier against the Predators. Jonathan Quick played Monday night in San Jose and has been in the crease for every game on the current slide. Also, Bernier owns the most success against Nashville than any other team in the league, bringing a 4-1 lifetime record with a shutout and a 1.80 goals-against average. Bernier, who has started just two games this season, started all four against the Predators last season, winning three.
3. Lone star – If there’s one player on the Kings who’s earning his paycheck it’s center Anze Kopitar. For the second straight game, he had a hand in both goals, assisting on a 5-on-3 goal by Jack Johnson in the second period and scoring a power-play goal in the third. He has eight goals and 10 assists in 14 games, setting him on pace for a 100-point season. His combination of size, skill and vision has truly placed him among the elite forwards in the NHL.
4. Good news/bad news – With two more power-play goals Monday night, the Kings have risen to sixth in the NHL in efficiency at 21.6 percent. That’s a great sign, except the Kings are 28th in the league in overall scoring (2.14 goals a game). At some point, the Kings will need to figure out how to consistently score at even strength. Their 5-on-5 goals for/against ratio is 21stin the league, but that number has been aided by the defense, which has the fifth-best goals-against average in the NHL (also at 2.14 goals a game). The biggest offender has been the team’s highest-paid player, defenseman Drew Doughty, who does not have an even-strength point in nine games this season.
5. Hungry Predators – Nashville has been off since Saturday night and waiting in L.A. since Sunday. The Predators are heading in the opposite direction of their hosts, owning a 5-1-1 mark in their last seven games with two shutouts in their last four. If the Kings thought it was tough getting a shot past Sharks goalie Antti Niemi, the Predators have one of the best net-minders in Pekka Rinne. He has been particularly sharp on the road this season, winning five of eight starts with two shutouts.