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Kings Host Predators Hoping To End Losing Streak

(Sports Network) - Hoping to avoid a season-worst fifth straight loss, the Los Angeles Kings couldn't be happier to see the Nashville Predators. The Kings aim for a fourth straight victory over the Predators as they continue their longest homestand of the season tonight at the Staples Center. Los Angeles is on its second four-game slide of the season and have yielded 18 goals in that span. That includes a setback in each of the first three contests of an eight-game residency, dropping the Kings to 13-5-1 as the host this season.

They could have an easier time snapping their slide tonight given the Kings recent success over the Predators. Los Angeles has won the last three meetings since a seven-game series losing streak, outscoring Nashville 10-2 in a pair of contests this season. The Kings snapped a five-game home losing streak to Nashville with a 4-1 victory on Nov. 6, then blasted the Preds, 6-1, in Nashville on Dec. 18. Ryan Smyth has three goals in the two games, including a pair of tallies in the last meeting.

Smyth has also been hot over Los Angeles' current losing streak, posting five goals in the four games. He scored twice in Monday's 4-3 loss to Chicago as the Kings dropped the game off a bad bounce. Less than two minutes after Smyth had tied the game, the puck popped in front of the Kings' net from behind and off of goaltender Jonathan Quick. Defenseman Drew Doughty tried to clear it, but the puck instead hit off Chicago's Jonathan Toews and in for the game-winner.

"That's bad luck. That comes off the boards or off the glass, almost went off Quick's head. I think when it came over the top of the crossbar," said Los Angeles head coach Terry Murray. "That's bad luck but I guess when you're the Stanley Cup Champion you probably get breaks, you probably get lucky bounces like that."

Michal Handzus also scored and Quick ended with 24 saves for the Kings, who haven't lost five straight since Oct. 25-Nov. 4, 2008 and are now seven points behind first-place Dallas in the tight Pacific Division. In response to Los Angeles' current skid, Murray shook up his lines on Wednesday. Wayne Simmonds moved to right wing on the top line along center Anze Kopitar and forward Dustin Brown, while Handzus centered the top line between Smyth and Justin Williams.

Also, Jonathan Bernier will get the start for the Kings tonight versus the Preds for the third time this season. He has 54 saves over the previous two meetings and is 3-0-0 with a 0.67 goals-against average versus them lifetime. Neither Nashville goaltender has made it out of a game versus the Kings this year. No. 1 Pekka Rinne was lifted early in the November loss and is 4-2-0 with a 2.89 GAA versus the Kings, while backup Anders Lindback made his first career start versus them on Dec. 18 but allowed three goals on nine shots before being pulled less than 11 minutes into the game.

That could lead to Rinne getting the call tonight, especially after he made a season-high 40 saves in last night's 4-1 win over the Ducks, the Predators' third straight victory by that score following a five-game slide. Patric Hornqvist and Sergei Kostitsyn both finished with a goal and an assist, while Jerred Smithson and Shea Weber also tallied. "We are playing a good team game which is the biggest thing," Smithson said. "For the most part we are playing solid defensively. We have a little work to do in our own zone. We're not going to score a lot of goals -- that is just how our team is made up. We have to be solid in our zone to win games."

Hornqvist is starting to heat up as he has scored in three straight games to give him 11 goals in 36 contests. He netted 30 goals in 80 games last year, but has just one goal and three assists in eight career outings versus the Kings. Nashville, which trails first-place Detroit by nine points in the Central Division, won the opener of a three-game tour through California as it will also visit San Jose on Saturday. The Predators have won four of their last six as the road team.

For more Kings news and information, be sure to read the SB Nation blog Jewels From The Crown.