Florida Panthers (10-13-0) vs. Kings (13-10-0) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Nothing official from the Kings yet, but word is they’ve traded for a sorely needed left wing. The deal would bring 12-year veteran Marco Sturm from Boston for a conditional draft pick. Sturm, who has averaged nearly 20 goals a season for his career, hasn’t played this season because of a knee injury suffered during the playoffs last season, but has been practicing. The Kings have made similar trades for injured players Michal Handzus and Justin Williams and then reaped the benefits later.
2. Must-win situation: Yeah, yeah, yeah ... professional athletes tell reporters every game is a must-win, but this one really is for the Kings. After losing four straight and seven of eight, the organization is inching closer to the panic button. The Panthers should provide just the opposition the Kings are looking for, a team that’s already looking toward the next draft. Sound familiar, Kings fans?
3. New line, same result? The Kings are pulling out all the stops to end their skid, moving Williams to the top line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. That will enable their top three goal scorers to skate together for the first time this season. Williams is goal-less in his last six games after scoring nine in the first 17. Brown hasn’t scored a goal in his last five games. Kopitar has just two goals in the last eight and one of those came on a 5-on-3.
4. Good returns vs. Florida: The Kings have won five straight against the Panthers dating to November 2002. Their only current winning streak that’s longer is against the New York Islanders (six). Just like tonight, Florida came into its last win against Los Angeles colder than a Zamboni’s squeegee, winless in its previous eight games, but pulled out a 5-2 victory at Staples Center. Only a handful of Kings were in the NHL back then, so it’s doubtful they remember.
5. The other Bernier: Steve Bernier, the older brother of Kings back-up goalie Jonathan Bernier, returned Wednesday night against the Ducks after missing the previous nine games for surgery to repair a broken orbital bone. He scored two power-play goals in the 5-3 loss, ending his team’s 0-for-37 scoreless streak with the man advantage. He won’t get the chance to pull some old tricks on his little brother, however. Jonathan Quick is expected to start in goal tonight.