The Los Angeles Kings nearly pulled off an impressive upset on Tuesday night in Tampa, but in typical Kings’ fashion, they blew a late lead and fell 4-3 in a shootout. Tough one to accept for the Kings, though they get an effort point against a superior Lightning squad on the road. The talent gap is pretty substantial between the Kings and Lightning, but the Kings made up for it with effort.
This is the fourth stop on a five-game road trip for the Kings. It feels like they’ve been away from California forever now. Their last game at home was a close 2-1 loss against the Dallas Stars on January 8th. I wouldn’t say this has been a terrible road trip for the Kings. Certainly not great, but when you’re a 18-25-5 team, any small win can be seen as a positive.
The Kings opened the trip with a 5-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights, and competed in a 2-0 loss against the Hurricanes and 4-3 in Tampa most recently. Their win against the Golden Knights set in motion the wheels for Gerard Gallant’s firing yesterday. Gallant is the seventh head coach this season to get canned.
The Kings played a role in getting it done, so at least they’ve managed to accomplish something. They are still sitting near the bottom of the Pacific Division at 41 points, just a couple of points ahead of the Ducks. That’s better than where they were for most of the season, which was dead last in the division. They’ve been fighting recently, but expect the Kings to be sellers at the trade deadline.
LA competing in games of late at least helps out the front office when they have to negotiate. I don’t know if it’s going to help shed a ton of salary on the core of a team that is over the hill at this point, though they’ve shown there is some life left. If the contracts weren’t so bad, then potential suitors would be lining up.
They have another tricky opponent tonight, as they look to play the Florida Panthers as hard as they did against the Lightning on Tuesday. The Panthers’ offence can strike in bunches, and the Kings will have to be aware in their defensive zone if they don’t want this game to get out of control in a hurry. The Panthers are coming off a monster offensive performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs, as they buried them for a 8-4 victory. Frederik Andersen nor Michael Hutchinson had an answer for the Panthers. We’ll see if the offence can pour it on again Thursday night. Head below for our free Kings vs. Panthers pick.
L.A. Kings vs. Florida Panthers Betting Odds:
Kings vs. Panthers Prediction:
The Panthers didn’t let up against the Maple Leafs. It’s not like they had many shots either. Just when they did get opportunities they were Grade A scoring chances and they didn’t miss. Andersen was pulled after allowing 4 goals on 12 shots, and then Hutchinson was hit for 4 goals on 17 shots. The Panthers have gotten their offensive game working in several games this season.
The Maple Leafs aren’t the only team that have had difficulties against the Panthers’ offence. This will be the first meeting against the Kings for the Panthers this season, but when they did play last year, the Panthers made good in both games. They were winners by a score of 6-1 in the first game, and then a month later they won 4-3 in a tighter game. In both cases, the Kings didn’t provide much resistance versus a speedy Panthers team.
Florida are 2nd in the league with 3.62 goals on the board per game. The only team, incidentally enough, who is ahead of the Panthers is the Maple Leafs at 3.66 goals per contest. Prior to the win over the Maple Leafs, the Panthers scored 5 goals in a 5-2 win over the Canucks, and also had 4 goals in a recent 4-1 win. In other words, the 8 goals they scored against the Maple Leafs sure was a lot, but they’ve been putting pucks in the back of the net at an effective clip in 2019-20. Joel Quenneville has been a major plus for the Panthers in that regard. Now if only Bobrovsky would start earning his pay.
Chris Driedger will make a second straight start because of an injury to Bobrovsky. Considering all of the action Driedger saw around his net on Sunday against the Leafs, Driedger played reasonably well with 43 saves on 47 shots for a 0.915 save percentage. Driedger was nailed for 4 goals on 36 shots against the Coyotes prior to that effort. The Panthers’ defence has not been a highlight of their season. If that was the case, then they’d be looking at something a lot better than a record of 24-16-5 right now. They’d likely be closer to the Lightning’s 60 points than their current mark of 53.
Heading into Thursday, the Panthers have yielded 3.31 goals per game for 27th in the league. The good news if they have defensive lapses again tonight, they will likely have a good chance of winning. LA have not been performing defensively, having allowed 3.38 goals against per game. The Panthers exploited that in their last two meetings and should be able to again tonight. Florida has notched a healthy 4 goals per game in their previous ten outings, though have allowed nearly the same with 3.7 goals against. A 4-3 or 5-3 final score looks like an accurate prediction here.