The Los Angeles Kings (6-6-1) have been plagued by inconsistency all season. One of the highest-scoring offenses in the league this season dulled against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, however, they finally looked like the defensively solid unit we saw last season.
They face a tough test tonight against a Florida Panthers team (6-4-1) who's yet to hit full stride.
The puck drops at 7:30 PM.
Rasmus Kupari has replaced a sick Quinton Byfield in the last four games. With one assist and no goals, his play doesn't jump off the stat sheet. Still, he's received praise from Todd McLellan for his 200-foot play.
"For the most part he's (Kupari) done, defensively, the things we want from him," McLellan said. "His ability to break up plays, hunt on the way back, using his legs, defending in those situations has been really good. We're working on him, with his offensive production and the ability to create there. We're working on faceoffs with him. We think he can help us on the penalty kill, so there's been a lot of positive things. But, like every player, there's still more to accomplish."
The LA Kings were a perfect 2-0 against the Panthers last season, beating Florida on the road 4-1 and 3-2 in a shootout at home. This is a different Panthers team to last season though, with key addition Matthew Tkachuk finding early success. The Kings won't have to face offseason departures Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar, or the injured Aaron Ekblad.
The Panthers started their California sweep with a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday.
The Kings have done their homework though.
"We do a pretty good job of pre-scouting," McLellan said. "Stylistically they (Florida) play a certain way and we'll be aware of it. There won't be any lack of information, we won't over information them either. There will be two or three things that are specific we have to do well in this game to give ourselves a chance to win."
Expected LA Kings Lines:
Expected Florida Panthers Lines: Per Puckpedia.com
Carter Verhaeghe-Aleksander Barkov-Matthew Tkachuk
Rudolfs Balcers-Sam Bennet-Sam Reinhart
Eetu Luostarinen-Anton Lundell-Nick Cousins
Ryan Lomberg-Eric Staal-Patric Hornqvist
Gustav Forsling-Brandon Montour
Josh Mahura-Radko Gudas
Marc Staal-Matt Kiersted
LA Kings Power Play: 11-55, 20%, 20th in NHL
LA Kings Penalty Kill: 13-54, 75.93%, 23rd in NHL
Panthers Power Play: 5-47, 10.64%, 31st in NHL
Panthers Penalty Kill: 12-41, 70.73%, 30th in NHL
Los Angeles Kings Game Notes:
* Anze Kopitar is the franchise leader in points against the Panthers (6-15-21).
* Since the beginning of the 2021-22 season, the LA Kings have established a 26-8-3 record against Eastern Conference teams, the second-best record in the league behind the Minnesota Wild (26-7-5).
* Trevor Moore sits just three points shy of the 100-point mark.
* With five multi-point games on the season, only Boston’s David Pastrnak (6), Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl (6) and Connor McDavid (6) and San Jose’s Erik Karlsson (6) have more than Vilardi in the league
How to Watch:
TV: Bally Sports West, ESPN+; Radio: iHeartRadio