The Nashville Predators can't afford a slump right now if ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Preds try to avoid a third straight loss this evening in their final 2011-12 regular-season meeting with the Anaheim Ducks.
Nashville has 90 points on the season, good enough for the fifth overall spot in the Western Conference. The Predators, though, are only two points behind the Red Wings for the fourth seed and are four up on the sixth-place Blackhawks with a game in hand over both clubs.
After having a three-game win streak snapped with Thursday's shootout loss in San Jose, Nashville was handed a 4-2 setback by the Kings in Los Angeles last night. Martin Erat had a goal and an assist, while Mike Fisher netted the other tally.
Pekka Rinne, tied for the NHL lead with 39 wins, allowed all four goals on 27 shots faced in defeat. The Predators are now on the verge of losing three in a row for the first time since Feb. 7-11 as they wrap a four-game road trip this evening.
"They used the neutral zone very well and we turned it over," Nashville's Kevin Klein said. "We had our opportunities, but it got away from us in the third."
Nashville played without forward Paul Gaustad due to an upper-body injury suffered versus San Jose and he is unlikely to suit up tonight either.
The Predators have a good chance of getting on track versus the Ducks considering they have won five straight and seven of the past eight meetings. A third straight victory in Anaheim tonight would give Nashville its first ever series sweep of the Ducks.
Anaheim will try to prevent that from happening as it plays out the string. The Ducks were one of the hottest teams in the league through January and most of February, but their current 3-6-1 rut has just about ended their playoff hopes. Anaheim sits 11 points out of a postseason spot with 10 games to play.
The Ducks lost for the fourth time in five games on Friday, dropping a 4-2 decision to the visiting Kings. Jonas Hiller was touched for three goals in the first period, but rebounded to make 39 saves on 42 shots faced.
"I told our guys [the Kings have] been getting off to very fast starts, and that's what they did," Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau said. "But we worked hard and nearly came back."
Cam Fowler had a goal and an assist, Luca Sbisa also scored and Teemu Selanne assisted on both tallies.