Predators continue playoff push vs. Kings

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By Dan Pieringer

Stats Writer

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

playoff race.

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

night.

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

alive.

"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.

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