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Budaj gets fourth shutout of season for scrappy Kings

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) A road game for Nic Dowd definitely had a home feeling to it.

Peter Budaj made 28 saves and Dowd, a Huntsville, Alabama native, scored to lead the Los Angeles Kings to a 4-0 victory over the Nashville Predators on Thursday night.

Nick Shore, Jeff Carter and Devin Setoguchi also scored for Los Angeles. Playing the sixth of their season-long nine-game road swing, the Kings improved their record to 3-2-1 on the current trip.

Budaj made 12 saves in the first period, nine in the second and seven in the third en route to his fourth shutout of the season and 15th of his career.

“I felt good tonight, I was seeing the puck well,” Budaj said. “The guys were doing a great job blocking shots. It always helps because Nashville is known for getting shots from the point and then trying to jam the net and just try to get the second, third opportunities. We eliminated that.”

Pekka Rinne made 21 saves for Nashville, which had a two-game winning streak come to an end.

“I definitely think that from a consistency standpoint, it needs to be better,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “Win two, lose two, win two, lose one, win one, lose three – you’re going nowhere in mud really quick. We’ve got to string something together.”

The Kings have not allowed a power-play goal in eight consecutive games. In killing off three Nashville power plays, Los Angeles allowed just three shots on goal in the 6 minutes they were shorthanded.

“We’re limiting the number of penalties that we take, (that) obviously helps, two or three a game,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “We have good centermen that are pretty good penalty killers. There’s no secret to it.”

Shore scored the game’s first goal at 6:33 of the opening period.

Jordan Nolan carried the puck into the low slot and sent a pass to Shore in the right faceoff circle. Shore attempted to pass it back to Nolan, but the puck deflected off the stick of Nashville’s Mike Ribeiro and past Rinne.

The score remained 1-0 into the third, when Dowd and Carter scored 9 seconds apart.

Dowd, who grew up 100 miles south of Nashville, connected from the left faceoff circle at 4:25 with a wrist shot that squeezed just underneath Rinne’s leg pad.

Several of Dowd’s family members made the short trip north to see him play his first-ever NHL game in Nashville.

“Minus the goal, I think just playing here in general, I was just excited to be around my family and get to see them after,” Dowd said. “Very few times all five of them, six of them are going to be able to see me play at once.”

After winning the ensuing faceoff against Ribeiro, Carter carried the puck down the right side and snapped a shot by Rinne for his team-leading 17th goal of the season.

Carter has 25 points in 24 career games against Nashville.

“There are some things we can do better defensively too,” Predators defenseman Roman Josi said. “Like tonight in the third, we definitely left (Rinne) hanging back there, but I think it’s a big thing from the start. We’ve got to go and try to get the first goal and win the game. The game is so much easier when you have that lead, you’re playing with the momentum and everything. We’ve got to make sure we do that.”

Setoguchi connected at 11:39 of the third off a nice pass from Kings captain Anze Kopitar just outside Rinne’s crease.

The assist was Kopitar’s 700th career NHL point.

Notes: Predators D P.K. Subban missed his fourth consecutive game with an upper-body injury. . Nashville C Calle Jarnkrok played in his 200th career NHL game. … Budaj is 9-5-0 in his career against Nashville. . The Kings are 11-1-1 when leading after two periods this season.

UP NEXT:

Kings: Travel to Dallas on Friday

Predators: Face Minnesota at home on Tuesday

Blues re-sign goalie Binnington

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Jordan Binnington, the netminder taken 88th overall by the Blues in 2011, has signed a one-year, two-way extension, the club announced on Friday.

Binnington, 24, has played almost exclusively with St. Louis’ AHL affiliate since turning pro four years ago, though he did spend some time in the ECHL.

Last year he worked alongside Ville Husso and Pheonix Copley in the Wolves’ goal, and will likely do so again with Husso moving forward (Copley was traded to Washington as part of the Kevin Shattenkirk deal.)

Binnington’s NHL body of work is brief — one 13-minute relief appearance during the ’15-16 campaign. Right now he’s jockeying with Husso to be the organization’s No. 3 netminder, a potential call-up should either Jake Allen or Carter Hutton get hurt.

Chris Neil wants a one-way deal, and says he’s received offers

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Here’s what we know about veteran tough guy Chris Neil.

He won’t be back in Ottawa, the city where he’s spent his entire 15-year career. But he does want to keep playing. What’s more, he’s not ready to accept a two-way deal or training camp PTO, because offers for a one-way deal have already come in.

“The offers I’ve had so far haven’t been [two way or PTO]. They’ve been a one-way deal,” the 37-year-old forward said, per the Ottawa Sun. “For me, that’s what I’d be looking for.

“It’s up in the air right now. There’s some interest. There’s some teams you’d prefer over others.”

Neil was informed by the Sens last month that he wouldn’t be brought back next season, which marked the end of an era. Ottawa took Neil in the sixth round of the 1998 draft, and he made his NHL debut three years later. He went on to become one of the club’s most recognizable players, in large part to his pugilistic ways — during the 2003-04 campaign, he fought a remarkable 24 times.

That trademark toughness could be something teams are interested in bringing aboard. There were rumblings St. Louis was eyeing him after trading Ryan Reaves to Pittsburgh, with Fox Sports Midwest reporting that Neil had three offers on the table.

If there’s one thing that’s for certain, it’s that Neil believes he can still play. After learning that he wouldn’t be brought back to the Canadian capital, he had some choice words for Sens head coach Guy Boucher and the perceived lack of opportunity Boucher afforded him.

“I have a lot of respect for Randy [Lee, Sens assistant GM] and Pierre [Dorion, GM] … I think, if it was up to them, I’d be back,” Neil explained, per the Citizen. “But they kind of put it in the coach’s hands and that had a lot to do with it. For whatever reason, Guy [Boucher] never really gave me the chance to show I can play.

“Even before I got hurt, I was a healthy scratch for a couple of games and I saw the writing on the wall.”

After tough year in Florida, Smith ready to reunite with ‘players-first’ Gallant

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For Reilly Smith, the anticipation of playing for Las Vegas next season goes beyond playing for the league’s newest team.

It’s also about playing for his old coach, Gerard Gallant.

“I think he kind of embodies the motto that it’s a players-first league and everything kind of revolves around that,” Smith said, per the Golden Knights website. “I know particularly last year in the Florida Panthers organization, there was a lot of change and things going on and I know one of the main messages that he always put forth was that whatever goes on outside, make sure you guys are a tight-knit group inside and play for each other.

“That was one thing that he definitely tried to convey to the team and try to get us to rally behind.”

Smith’s time in Florida was a two-part tale.

After coming over from Boston as part of the Jimmy Hayes swap — Marc Savard’s contract was also shipped to Florida — Smith had a terrific ’15-16 campaign under Gallant, posting career highs in goals (25) while helping the Panthers qualify for the playoffs.

In the postseason, he was a consistent scoring threat, finishing the series with four goals and eight points in six games.

Year two wasn’t nearly as successful.

Gallant was fired early on — controversially so — and Smith’s production dropped off. He ended with just 15 goals and 37 points, disappointing figures that were exacerbated by the big five-year, $25 million extension he signed in the offseason.

Reading between the lines, fair to suggest Smith struggled with the coaching change from Gallant to Tom Rowe. Things came to a head in early March, when Rowe called out Smith following a loss to Dallas.

On the Stars’ first goal, Smith seemed to lose his man in front of the net. Rowe was asked about it, and responded.

“We went over that exact play in team meeting and we haven’t learned our lesson yet,” he said. “That is the problem.”

Rowe wasn’t done there. Later, he was asked about Dallas’ winning goal, which may have been deflected in off a skate. The criticism went back to Smith.

“I don’t know,” said Rowe. “All I know is Reilly Smith was blowing the zone doing exactly what he is not supposed to be doing.”

Smith will certainly be a guy to watch this season. He’s still only 26 years old, looking for a bounce back, and noted that Gallant gave him the opportunity to play a larger role than he had with the Bruins (and, prior to that, the Stars).

One wonders if that’ll happen again, this time in Vegas.

Subban ‘can’t really envision’ Habs without Markov

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The Montreal Canadiens’ defense looks a lot different than it did two years ago.

For the second offseason in a row, the Canadiens have walked away from a seemingly important puck-moving defenseman. Last summer, they traded P.K. Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber, and yesterday they announced that they were parting ways with Andrei Markov.

Markov and Subban played a lot of minutes together during their time time in Montreal. The two even became good friends (Subban attended Markov’s wedding earlier this month).

Needless to say, when Subban found out that Markov wasn’t going to be returning to the Canadiens, he was pretty surprised.

“I can’t really envision the Montreal Canadiens without Andrei Markov on the blue line. That’s No. 1. Even before I played for the team, I watched him play for the team and be their best defenseman,” The Preds defenseman told NHL.com’s Arpon Basu. “Even while I was there, I still thought he was our best defenseman, even though a lot of people thought because of what I got paid it was me. You can’t really put a price tag on how he plays because he’s so smart, the way he sees the ice.”

With those two players no longer on the team, it’ll be interesting to see who moves the puck for the Habs. Shea Weber is still playing at a high level, but carrying the puck up the ice isn’t his strongest attribute.

GM Marc Bergevin added Mark Streit, Karl Alzner and David Schlemko this offseason, but none of those guys can do the things Markov is capable of doing when it comes to moving the puck efficiently.

Is there another move on the horizon?

Well, Montreal has a huge hole on the left side of their defense and they have over $8 million in cap space. Maybe there is something brewing.

Related:

Andrei Markov opts for KHL after saying goodbye to Canadiens

Habs president pens glowing farewell letter to Markov

Habs sign Streit–is he Markov’s replacement?