Preds top Kings, set stage for West showdown with Ducks

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The Nashville Predators have been struggling lately, yet after beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1, they’re now back on top of the Central Division and Western Conference. Sunday’s game will determine if Nashville even makes it out of the weekend with that conference lead, however.

Jeff Carter scored the game’s first goal in the first period. The Predators weren’t able to find the net until the final frame, yet they beat Jonathan Quick in rapid succession, scoring two goals in less than a minute and a half to win 2-1.

After a troubling six-game losing streak (not to mention dropping eight of 10), the Predators have now won two of the first three games on their four-game road trip, which ends tomorrow against the Ducks in Anaheim.

Pekka Rinne was sharp in the game, which happened to represent his 200th career win.

That now stands as a clear match to temporarily hold the top spot in the West.

Technically, Nashville has the No. 1 spot in the West, as both teams have identical 43-20-7 records but the Preds have two more regulation/overtime wins. It won’t really matter tomorrow, though, as the victor will at least briefly stand alone in the West.

To some, that top spot may just be a curse in disguise … at least if the Kings grab the final wild card spot.

A lot can change in that regard, especially since this loss leaves Los Angeles outside of the two wild card spots. It’s probably easiest just to take an updated look at the West race, via NHL.com’s standings:

source:

The Colorado Avalanche beat the Calgary Flames in regulation while the Minnesota Wild and Winnipeg Jets held serve with wins to keep the playoff picture more or less in place. The basic takeaway is that it could be a very competitive battle for those final spots, not to mention seeding with the heavyweight teams.

Kings’ Stoll (upper body) out vs. Preds

The L.A. Kings will be without forward Jarret Stoll tonight when they play host to the Nashville Predators.

According to Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times, Stoll is out with an upper body injury.

“He didn’t skate yesterday and he didn’t skate today, so he’s probably not going to be available tonight,” said Darryl Sutter.

Stoll has six goals and 15 points to go along with a plus-4 rating while averaging 15:41 in time on ice in 67 games this season.

Andy Andreoff is expected to take Stoll’s spot in the lineup.

Andreoff, 23, has appeared in 13 games this season for the Kings registering 16 penalty minutes and a minus-1 rating.

Goalie Nods: Rangers’ Skapski gets second NHL start

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Skapski starts vs. Sabres

Mackenzie Skapski will make his second career NHL start tonight as the New York Rangers visit the Buffalo Sabres. The 20-year-old got his first NHL win with a 24 save performance defeating the Sabres 3-1 on Feb. 20. Skapski was 12-7-3 to go along with a .914 save percentage and a 2.38 in 24 AHL games prior to being recalled.

Anders Lindback gets the nod for Buffalo.

Elsewhere…

Blackhawks at Sharks: Corey Crawford vs. Antti Niemi

Leafs at Canucks: Jonathan Bernier vs. Eddie Lack

Panthers at Hurricanes: Dan Ellis vs. Cam Ward

Canadiens at Islanders: Carey Price vs. Michal Neuvirth

Jets at Lightning: Ondrej Pavelec vs. Andrei Vasilevskiy

Wild at Blues: Devan Dubnyk vs. Brian Elliott

Devils at Coyotes:Cory Schneider vs. Mike Smith

Flames at Avalanche: Karri Ramo vs. Semyon Varlamov

Predators at Kings: Pekka Rinne vs. Jonathan Quick

Reports: New Coyotes ownership suffered losses of $16 million in first fiscal year (Updated)

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The new Arizona Coyotes ownership group on Friday gave an update on the team’s financial status.

From FOX Sports Arizona:

The Coyotes ownership group reported its Fiscal Year 1 losses to the City of Glendale on Friday, and the number was alarming to everyone but the team.

Coyotes president and CEO Anthony LeBlanc said the team lost $16.458 million, but for Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), it also had to include its one-time acquisition and closing costs ($7.878 million), along with the complete amount of the Mike Ribeiro buyout ($10.495 million), bringing the total operating loss to $34.831 million.

The latter is the figure that counts toward the team’s oft-mentioned “out clause,” which can be exercised within a 180-day window after five years and allows the team to leave Arizona if it reaches or exceeds $50 million in losses. The $50 million threshold is just a gating factor, not an automatic trigger for the out clause. There are many other determining factors.

It was initially reported the loss for the first fiscal year was about $16.6 million.

The Coyotes organization has been in a lengthy state of flux, with the NHL approving the sale of the majority stake in the franchise to Andrew Barroway at the end of December.

There have been rumors of Barroway possibly flipping the franchise to someone who would look to relocate it, and Barroway shooting down those rumors.

On the ice, the Coyotes are in the midst of a rebuild, after veterans Antoine Vermette and Keith Yandle were traded prior to the deadline earlier this month. And, as GM Don Maloney mentioned in January, this might mean some “suffering” in the shorter term.

The message from Friday’s update seems to be that the ownership group expects profitability, although it remains to be seen exactly when that could happen.

Meanwhile, the Coyotes do have an out-clause if they lose $50 million over the first five seasons.

Preds descent continues as Sharks’ Niemi earns 35-save shutout

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After being one of the league’s top teams for most of the season, the Nashville Predators seem to be falling apart in the 11th hour. Their latest setback came in the form of a 2-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks.

San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi stopped all 35 Predators shots to earn his fifth shutout of the season. San Jose has gone 4-1 this month and Niemi has played a significant part in that with a 1.48 GAA and .956 save percentage in March.

Pekka Rinne was solid between the Predators’ pipes, but Tomas Hertl found the back of the net with the man advantage late in the second period to break the scoreless tie.

Tommy Wingels scored an empty-net goal to make it 2-0 with less than a minute left in regulation.

Between Winnipeg losing and Los Angeles winning tonight, the Sharks are now three points behind in the battle for the second Wild Card spot. Their journey to the playoffs is about to get even more challenging though as they’ll face Chicago on Saturday before beginning a seven-game road trip.

Nashville has now lost seven of its last eight games and the one exception was an overtime victory against the lowly Arizona Coyotes. Thanks to St. Louis’ victory tonight, Nashville is no longer in control of the Central Division’s top seed. Instead, if the playoffs were to start today, the slumping Predators would be up against the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round.

As is the case with San Jose, the Predators schedule isn’t going to get any easier in the near future. They’ll complete their road trip with games against Los Angeles and Anaheim on Saturday and Sunday respectively before hosting the red hot Minnesota Wild Tuesday night.