7:00 PM Pacific, Fox Sports West
After two embarrassing losses to the Capitals and Lightning, the Kings used an offensive outburst against the Panthers to go into their bye week on a high note. It’s too bad they couldn’t maintain their winning ways after returning to the ice. At least the Kings decided to get in on the new tradition of a loss after the bye week.
Carolina lost to Colorado tonight. So teams coming off their bye are now 0-5-1 in February. The Avs had been 4-23-1 in their last 28 games.— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) February 18, 2017
The merits of the bye week can be discussed later (or in the comments, bring me all your hot takes) but the bottom line is: that game against the Coyotes was a ridiculous affair -- 44 shots! Three goals in the third period! -- that in most other circumstances should have resulted in a win, if not for a slow start and uncharacteristically poor goaltending.
Few changes are likely in tonight’s lineup, although based on yesterday’s skate, Andy Andreoff could draw in somewhere in the bottom six. Based solely on ice time against the Coyotes, Nick Shore (8:34) or Dwight King (8:46) could be a potential scratch. The only reason Trevor Lewis cracked ten minutes was because of his work on the penalty kill. (All this means it will probably be Nic Dowd who gets scratched, so who knows.)
That means Adrian Kempe sticks in the lineup, retaining his spot on the top line. Kempe carried himself well enough for a first NHL game, registering two shots in 15 minutes of ice time and not looking entirely lost out there. As expected, his skating and speed were noticeable, on the plus side -- but so were his tendencies to wait around for things to happen, especially along the boards. He’s still a work in progress.
For the Panthers, they’ve had themselves a nice little stretch after their loss to the Kings. They’re one point out of a playoff spot right now, frequently flip-flopping with Toronto. (The East is wild this year, guys.) In their last three games (against Nashville, San Jose, and Anaheim), they’ve collected three wins and scored seventeen goals. Aleksander Barkov’s got three of those goals, including a two goal performance against San Jose. Jonathan Huberdeau has seven points in five games. One of them was this ridiculous piece of work:
Yeahhhhh let's just go ahead and watch this Jagr goal a few more times… pic.twitter.com/nBSA62DyFw— Florida Panthers (@FlaPanthers) February 18, 2017
Florida’s key players are stepping up just in time for them to make a push for the playoffs. Hint, hint.
With James Reimer starting last night in Anaheim, the Kings will probably get to see Roberto Luongo, and as usual, you never quite know which version of Luongo you’re going to get.
For the Kings in net -- well, who knows. With Budaj’s performance against the Coyotes, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Jeff Zatkoff get a rare start (saving Budaj for the second half of the back-to-back against Anaheim, rightfully a stronger team than the Panthers, on Sunday), although I imagine he’ll be on a short leash.
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Kempe - Kopitar - Toffoli
Pearson - Carter - Brown
Clifford - Dowd - Gaborik
King - Shore - Lewis
Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - Martinez
McNabb - LaDue
Huberdeau - Barkov - Jagr
Jokinen - Trocheck - Smith
McKegg - Bjigstad - Marchessault
Thornton - MacKenzie - Sceviour
Yandle - Demers
Pysyk - Ekblad
Matheson - Petrovic
Opposing Preview: Litter Box Cats