Game Day Preview #20, Florida Panthers @ Los Angeles Kings

Wake up! It’s a matinee game!

Preview: Florida Panthers (7-9-2) @ Los Angeles Kings (11-6-2)

Game Time: 1:00 PM, FS-W

Matinee game! Everyone loves a good matinee game! Especially the Kings, a team who appear to be struggling to put together a full 60 minutes. Lately, they’ve been putting forth a good effort in the first and then fading as the game goes on, until they fall behind. For the dreaded matinee games, it seems like the Kings traditionally have eased into the first period. None of this bodes particularly well for what we’re going to get to see this afternoon, unless the Kings come out with the appropriate amount of urgency to start the game.

Despite a shut-out win on Thursday against the Sharks, the Panthers sit on the list of “teams the Kings should be able to beat”. They’ve been wildly inconsistent this year, which has been the story on the Panthers for ages. They’ve got an 8-3 win over the Ducks sandwiched between losses to Montreal and Detroit; they haven’t won more than two games in a row yet this season; they’ve lost six of their last ten (including two overtime losses).

But there have been signs that the Panthers are starting to settle in under new coach Bob Boughner. Their win against the Sharks was emphasized as a team win, with all four lines and three defense pairings contributing, and with the whole team pressing for all 60 minutes.

Sound familiar? Sound like the message we’ve been hearing a lot from the Kings after losses lately?

The Panthers are looking to find their way out over that hump and they’re leaning on their top line to do it. The top line of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Evgenii Dadonov are leading the team in points (along with Vince Trocheck, who’s tied with Barkov) and goals, and are consistently dangerous when they’re on the ice.

Barkov in particular can make plays happen out of nothing. He’s an astounding center who would probably gather much more attention if he didn’t play on the Panthers. He plays the same sort of game as Anze Kopitar -- even better, if you ask Vince Trocheck. Depending on how John Stevens chooses to match his lines to the Panthers, it’s possible we could see a lot of Barkov vs. Kopitar, which sounds like a stellar bit of 200-foot play to me.

If the lines at Kings practice are any indication, there could be a whole lot of changes in store. Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli were split up at practice, with Toffoli and Trevor Lewis swapping spots. Lewis to the second line could provide a physical, netfront presence for Pearson and Adrian Kempe to work with. But what Toffoli is supposed to do with Nick Shore and Andy Andreoff, I’m not sure yet. Hopefully they both just try to get the puck to Toffoli instead of making us sit through another shift where Andreoff misses an open net.

The fourth line, still looking for some sort of stability, will see some wholesale changes, with Nic Dowd being released from the You’re Bad In Your Own Zone Purgatory that Stevens has him locked away in. Jonny Brodzinski stays in the lineup after an an okay game against the Bruins -- at least he got a shot off in that game. He played a team low 6:59, and will probably be on a short leash again tonight unless the game tilts quickly in the Kings’ favor.

Jussi Jokinen had an admirable debut as a King, gathering his second point of the season on the Kings’ lone goal. He played over thirteen minutes, including getting significant power play time on the top unit. The Jokinen-for-Cammalleri swap probably isn’t going to be what gets this team moving, particularly on their struggling power play, but in one game, by just the eye test, he’s been more noticeable than Cammalleri. Putting an experienced veteran player with Dowd and Brodzinski could help make up for some of their defensive deficiencies and free them up to play a bit more offensively.

Jonathan Quick will most likely start in goal tonight, freeing up Darcy Kuemper to take on the Golden Knights tomorrow. Bless Jonathan Quick and his bionically re-engineered body for keeping this Kings team in games far longer than they often deserve. Let’s get some goals for him tonight so he doesn’t have to work so hard.

Projected Line Combinations

Los Angeles Kings

Iafallo - Kopitar - Brown
Pearson - Kempe - Lewis
Andreoff - Shore - Toffoli
Jokinen - Dowd - Brodzinski

Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - Folin
MacDermid - Martinez


Florida Panthers

Huberdeau - Barkov - Dadonov
Brickley - Trocheck - Sceviour
McGinn - Bjugstad - Vrbata
Hunt - Balisy - Haley

Yandle - Ekblad
Matheson - Pysyk
McCoshen - Weegar


Opposing Preview: Litter Box Cats