Hello, road trip.
The Kings start a long stretch on the road in sunny Florida, with back-to-back games against both Florida teams. It’s not an understatement to say that this road trip is crucial for how the rest of the season will play out for the Kings. Whether or not they’re golfing come mid-April will be determined in large part by their success on this seven-game trip.
The Panthers are surging, though, and while their playoff hopes are slim, they’re gaining ground and could catch up to some of the other bubble teams ahead of them. They’re only three points behind the Rangers, who have openly admitted that they’re going to be sellers at the deadline. Ahead of them are the Hurricanes and Islanders, both of whom have been messy enough this season that it’s easy to see them falling off as the season winds down. So hope’s not dead for the Panthers - and they’re playing like every game matters.
Heck, they even managed to beat Vegas, and almost no one does that.
The last time these teams met, the Kings handed the Panthers a 4-0 loss. It was somewhat uncharacteristic of the Panthers, who hadn’t been shut out yet in the season. And it was a fairly low event affair for both teams: the Panthers had 24 shots, the Kings had 20.
But now the Kings are on the Panthers’ turf, with both teams fighting for their seasons.
This could be a chance for the Kings’ power play to rediscover its magic; the Panthers’ penalty kill is fairly average (79.6% on the season, 19th in the league — and worse, if you just look at it since the start of January). Granted, the Panthers take relatively few penalties; they’ve been shorthanded 35 times since the start of the year, as opposed to 50 for the Kings. So getting them in the box may be the first problem.
You read about Aleksander Barkov in the game day watch earlier; he’s a player who’s certainly a treat to watch, especially if you like big defensive forwards. The Panthers’ second line isn’t a line you want to sleep on, either, as Jonathan Huberdeau leads the Panthers in points.
Even though the Panthers are a team still trying to find their footing in the league, they’re no longer a team you can expect an easy win from. As always, coming out ready to play a full 60 minutes is going to be key for the Kings tonight.
There are minimal roster changes for LA, with Nick Shore swapping in for Mike Amadio, and Alec Martinez most likely returning to the lineup over Kevin Gravel. The biggest change is that we’ll see Jonathan Quick in net again. Perhaps this game will be a bit of a redemption song after going 3-7 in his last ten starts, including five straight losses.
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Dadonov - Barkov - Bjugstad
Huberdeau - Trocheck - Malgin
McGinn - McCann - Mamin
Haley - MacKenzie - Sceviour
Yandle - Ekblad
Matheson - Pysyk
McCoshen - Petrovic
Opposing Preview: Litter Box Cats