Panthers hope to finally solve Kings
KINGS (26-18-10) at PANTHERS (24-17-11)
: FS-West (HD), FS-Florida
: Los Angeles 5-3-2; Florida 3-4-3.
: This is the second and final meeting between the teams. The Kings earned a 2-1 victory against the Panthers on Dec. 1 at the Staples Center.
: Both teams are battling for playoff spots in their respective conferences, although Florida enters Thursday's action on the outside of the race, two points behind eighth-place Ottawa in the East. However, the Panthers trail the Washington Capitals by just one point in the Southeast Division, which is currently the No. 3 seed.
Thursday will not be an easy task for the Panthers. They've dropped their last seven games against Los Angeles, which currently resides in seventh in the West. Florida has lost three straight home matches to the Kings since a 3-2 victory way back on Oct. 26, 2001.
: The third time was the charm for Los Angeles, which finally earned a win on its six-game road trip with a 3-1 victory at Tampa Bay on Tuesday night. A stagnant offense played a huge role in losses at St. Louis and Carolina before the Kings finally began to click offensively against the Lightning. Los Angeles has scored one or zero goals in five of its last nine games.
Remarkably, the Kings are 4-3-2 during that span. They have their goaltender to thank for that, as Jonathan Quick is boasting a 1.37 goals-against average over his last 15 starts.
"Usually when we do get three (goals), we're pretty safe with (Quick) back there, obviously," center Anze Kopitar said of his All-Star goaltender. "He kept us in the game in the first period. That's all you want from your goaltender."
: In a matter of just a few hours Tuesday night, Florida fell from third place to ninth in the Eastern Conference.
The Panthers allowed a goal 13 seconds into their Southeast Division showdown against Washington at the Verizon Center and never recovered, as the Caps cruised to a 4-0 victory and seized control of first place of the Southeast in the process.
"We got beat by the better hockey team tonight," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "We need to understand that, fess up, recognize that our game has to improve and move on."
: Kopitar has goals in back-to-back games for the Kings. … Panthers forward Mikael Samuelsson
is 4-1-5 in his last five contests.
: Los Angeles will be without Simon Gagne (concussion) and Scott Parse (hip). … Florida is expected to be missing Ed Jovanovski
(hand), Scottie Upshall
(sports hernia), Dmitry Kulikov
(knee), Jack Skille
(shoulder) and Marco Sturm
: The Kings are 15-0-1 when they score at least three goals. Mike Richards, however, has one goal in his last 19 games. … Florida has allowed a power-play goal in seven of its last nine games.
: "No one is coming in here to help us or change anything. We've got to get the job done in here." -- Panthers defenseman Brian Campbell after Tuesday's 4-0 loss at Washington