Kings-Panthers Preview


The Los Angeles Kings and Florida Panthers are fighting for postseason spots in their respective conferences. If recent history is any indication, Los Angeles seems likely to come out of this next matchup in better shape.

The Kings seek their eighth consecutive victory over the Panthers on Thursday night in Sunrise, Fla.

Los Angeles (26-18-10) kept its hold on seventh place in the Western Conference with a 3-1 victory over Tampa Bay on Tuesday, winning for the first time in three tries on its six-game road trip.

The Kings fell 1-0 to St. Louis on Friday and 2-1 to Carolina on Saturday. They've scored one or no goals five times over their last nine games, though they've managed to go 4-3-2 in that span.

Los Angeles is 15-0-1 when scoring at least three goals.

''Guys are really bearing down, and as a team we want to score more goals,'' said left wing Kyle Clifford, who scored Tuesday. ''Our goaltenders and our defensive game have really kept us in most games, and we just want to try to improve on our offensive game. So we're just trying to bury as many chances as we can.''

The Kings are the NHL's lowest-scoring team with 118 goals, but Jonathan Quick's stellar play in net has helped them remain a playoff contender. He made 24 saves Tuesday and has posted a 1.37 goals-against average in going 8-3-4 in his last 15 starts.

''Usually when we do get three (goals) we're pretty safe with (Quick) back there, obviously,'' center Anze Kopitar said after scoring for the second straight contest. ''He kept us in the game in the first period. That's all you want from your goaltender.''

Quick made 41 saves to beat Florida 2-1 on Dec. 1, getting goals from Jack Johnson and Dustin Brown as he improved to 3-0-0 with a 1.95 GAA lifetime versus the Panthers.

That was the Kings' seventh straight win in the series. Los Angeles hasn't lost to Florida since Nov. 27, 2002.

The Panthers (24-17-11) likely will need a better performance than they had in their last two games if they want to end that skid.

Florida allowed a goal 13 seconds into the game and fell 4-0 to Washington on Tuesday, dropping it out of first place in the Southeast Division. The Panthers fell from the third seed to ninth in the Eastern Conference, though they're one point behind the Capitals for the division lead.

''We got beat by the better hockey team tonight,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. ''We need to understand that, fess up, recognize that our game has to improve and move on.''

The Panthers lost 6-3 at Tampa on Saturday and have allowed a power-play goal in seven of their last nine contests. They also gave up a short-handed goal Tuesday.

''We have to stay positive, and we have to up our level of play,'' said defenseman Brian Campbell, second in the league among defensemen with 34 assists. ''Some nights we're there. Other nights we're not.''

The Panthers have lost three straight home meetings to the Kings since a 3-2 win Oct. 26, 2001.

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