Los Angeles Hockey: Florida Panthers

Kings: Offense no-shows again in 3-1 loss to Panthers

February, 9, 2012
Darryl SutterSteve Mitchell/US PresswireKings coach Darryl Sutter suffered through another game of little offense by his team.
Florida Panthers 3, Kings 1

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: The Kings eliminated any chance of finishing their longest road trip of the season with a winning record, giving up two goals in a lackluster second period at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., then sealing the loss by giving up an empty-net goal to the Panthers in the game's final minute.

THE STAT: The Kings continue to show their Eastern Conference opponents why they’re the lowest-scoring team in the NHL, managing one goal or fewer for the 21st time in 55 games. They fell to 11-19-9 when scoring two goals or fewer. The good news is, they scored in the closing minutes to avoid getting shut out for the seventh time this season, which would have tied them for second in the league.

TURNING POINT: When these teams last met Dec. 1 at Staples Center, Florida left wing Sean Bergenheim delivered a hit on Kings center Mike Richards that sidelined him for eight games and sent the Kings reeling even further into an offensive abyss. Some thought the Kings might look to exact revenge, but it was Bergenheim who got the last laugh a day after turning 28 years old, scoring the first goal of the game early in the second period.

HOT: Kings center Anze Kopitar continues to scrape together points while most of his teammates put up zeros in the box score. He made an alert pass to defenseman Drew Doughty with about 2 minutes remaining in the game and Doughty scored his fifth goal of the season to cut the deficit to 2-1. Kopitar has 12 points in the last 13 games.

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Kings: All business heading into Florida clash

February, 9, 2012
Kings (26-18-10, 62 points) vs. Florida Panthers (24-17-11, 59 points) at BankAtlantic Center, 4:30 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

LASTL1. Don’t be fooled by the weather After five days in the Sunshine State, the Kings might be feeling a little at home. Considering their record back in Southern California, that's not such a good thing. But the players are certainly aware they still have much to accomplish on this season-long road trip. They’re 1-2 so far with three games remaining against franchises they’ve typically played well against over the years. The Kings beat the Panthers, 2-1, on Dec. 1 at Staples Center, a game they certainly haven’t forgotten for reasons beyond the final score.

2. Bergenheim time – The previous game against the Panthers marked the beginning of a costly downturn for the Kings. Mike Richards had just finished off a stellar month of November, carrying the mercurial Kings with nine goals. That momentum came crashing to a halt when Richards' chin collided with the shoulder of Florida left wing Sean Bergenheim, resulting in a concussion that sidelined Richards the next eight games. With their best offensive player off the ice, the Kings looked lost and lackadaisical while losing their next four games, costing coach Terry Murray his job. As for Richards, he hasn’t looked the same since the injury, scoring just three goals in 21 games. These teams don’t get together too often, so any thought of payback could come sooner rather than later.

3. It’s Clifford time – Kings left wing Kyle Clifford is admittedly a slow starter. He went the first 21 games last season without scoring a goal, then put up 10 the rest of the way, including three in the playoffs. Now a second-year player, he has doubled his season total with two goals in the last five games, both of which held up as game winners. Clifford’s goal Tuesday night in a 3-1 victory at Tampa Bay wasn’t one of the dirty varieties that he mines the crease for, but rather a skillful breakaway in which he made a smooth stick handle from forehand to backhand and slid the puck through the pads of Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson. Shootout audition?

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Kings: Depth tested in victory vs. Panthers

December, 1, 2011

LOS ANGELES -- With one of their best defenseman out of the game after one shift Thursday night and their leading goal scorer sidelined because of another injury following the second period, the Kings managed to patch together a 2-1 victory against the visiting Florida Panthers.

Whether they’ll need to patch together additional lineups is yet to be determined.

Willie Mitchell left because of a lower-body injury after just 51 seconds of ice time at Staples Center. Mike Richards, who had eight goals in the previous 10 games coming in, did not come out for the third period after taking a shoulder to the head late in the second.

He was officially diagnosed as having an upper-body injury.

After the game, Kings coach Terry Murray could not say if the players would miss any additional playing time. The Kings are scheduled to host the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday afternoon.

“The trainers are busy and evaluating and will probably know before I get away here tonight,” he said. “We’ll have a better idea tomorrow.”

Before the Kings could think about Saturday, they needed to get through Thursday’s game. Florida came to L.A. leading the Southeast Division with the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.

Short a defensemen, the remaining blue-liners were forced to double shift and swap partners throughout the game.

“You just have to be smart,” said Jack Johnson, who scored the game’s first goal. “You have to know, at times, you’ll be double shifting, so you’ve got to be smart and know when to conserve all your energy. You kind of pace yourself as the game goes on.”

That means minimizing extra time on the ice.

“When you lose players, one on the back end one on the front end, it’s just important to keep your shifts short,” said Kings captain Dustin Brown, who scored the winning goal in the second period. “It’s a good opportunity for guys to step up.”

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Dave Joseph of 710 ESPN radio goes over the highlights and lowlights of the Kings second straight victory, a 2-1 win against the visiting Florida Panthers.

Kings 2-1 victory may have come at a cost

December, 1, 2011
LOS ANGELES -- The Kings held on for a 2-1 victory Thursday night against the Panthers to run their record to 6-0 against Florida since the lockout season, but the two points may have come at a hefty price.

The Kings leading goal scorer, center Mike Richards, did not play in the third period at Staples Center and was reportedly being evaluated after taking a shot to the head. He appeared to get hit up high by the shoulder of Florida left wing Sean Bergenheim late in the second period. He retaliated by slashing Bergenheim with his stick, resulting in a four-minute double-minor penalty for slashing and roughing.

Richards served the first 3:08 of the penalty, which continued until the end of the second period, but Trent Hunter took his place in the penalty box for the first 52 seconds of the third. Richards has a team-high 11 goals this season, including eight in the previous 10 games. The Kings are 11-2-2 in games that Richards records at least one point.

The Kings also lost veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell to a lower-body injury after he played just one shift in the opening period. Mitchell is a shut-down defenseman that’s considered a cornerstone of the team’s defensive efforts.

Fortunately for the Kings, forward Dustin Penner is close to returning from a hand injury and Alec Martinez from a shoulder injury.

Updates to come from the locker room.

Kings: Dustin Brown gives L.A. brief two-goal lead

December, 1, 2011
After the 2nd period:

Kings 2, Florida Panthers 1

The good: The Kings grabbed a two-goal lead on a power-play goal by Dustin Brown with 5:47 left in the second period. Kings rookie defenseman Slava Voynov set up the scoring play up with a perfect blue line-to blue line pass to Brown as he was cutting into the offensive zone. Brown lifted his head when he reached the left faceoff circle and shot the puck past goalie Jose Theodore for a 2-0 lead. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, who has 28 saves, earned his sixth career assist on the play. The Kings came into the game having killed their last 18 penalties and they’re 6-for-6 so far tonight, including killing off a 35-second 5-on-3 in the second period. The Panthers will have another 53 seconds remaining on a double-minor penalty to Mike Richards.

The bad: The Kings will be without veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell for at least the rest of this game because of a lower-body injury. Mitchell played only one shift in the opening period, so it’s unclear if he was injured then, or he was just testing something out to see if he could go. Mitchell has been one of the team’s most consistent defensemen when on the ice, but he has been injury prone. With the Kings short-handed on defense, the rest of the blue-liners need to play it smart. Drew Doughty went to the penalty box for the second time 2 minutes into period, and Matt Greene followed 85 seconds later, leaving the Kings with just three available defensemen for a spell. The Kings can’t afford to have Richards, their leading goal scorer, sitting in the box for four minutes either. It was Greene and Richards who were unable to connect on a clearing pass, allowing the Panthers to regain possession in their offensive zone and score on a goal by Sean Bergenheim with 4:21 left in the second period.

The in between: Midway through the period, Colin Fraser of the Kings and Bracken Kearns of Florida dropped their gloves. Fraser, who grabbed the fourth-line center role four games ago and hasn’t given it back, got the best of Kearns, who made his NHL debut earlier this season at the ripe age of 30, dropping him with an overhand right.

Kings: Jack Johnson gives L.A. a 1-0 lead

December, 1, 2011
After the 1st period:

Kings 1, Florida Panthers 0

The good: Picking up where they left off, the Kings grabbed a 1-0 lead against the visiting Panthers, taking just 95 seconds to get on the board. Anze Kopitar missed a prime scoring chance off a rebound when he didn’t make good contact with the puck, but the Kings kept possession and the rubber made its way to defenseman Jack Johnson just above the left faceoff circle. He sent a quick wrist shot toward the goal and teammate Trent Hunter provided a good screen as the puck sailed into the net. It was Johnson’s first goal in the last 11 games, fifth overall and second at even strength. The Kings are bringing the wood against the Panthers, out-hitting the visitors, 19-4. Smooth-skating rookie defenseman Slava Voynov, believe it or not, leads the way with five body slams.

The bad: Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell played one shift and did not return to the game. No word if it's an injury yet, but he did have two stints on injured reserve last season. Mitchell was coming off a forgetful seven-giveaway performance Monday night in the 2-0 victory against San Jose. If his absence is anything long term, good thing the Kings have Alec Martinez close to returning from a shoulder injury. For the rest of this game, however, that could place a large burden on the remaining blue liners. If fourth-line forward Kevin Westgarth doesn’t want to wait another 73 games between goals than he better bury the opportunities he has. Shortly after Johnson’s goal, Westgarth had a plum rebound come his way but flicked the puck over the open side of the net.

The in between: Florida leading scorer Kris Versteeg was scratched because of an upper-body injury, likely resulting from the elbow to the nose he took Tuesday night in Carolina. Versteeg has 12 goals and 14 assists in 24 games this season.

Kings: Last dance vs. Panthers?

November, 30, 2011
Kings (12-8-3, 28 points) vs. Florida Panthers (13-7-4, 30 points) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. Final act? – With left wing Dustin Penner still at least a game away from returning from a hand injury, this could be the final audition for several other forwards. Look for the Kings to stick with the same look up front as Monday night, when they beat the visiting San Jose Sharks, 2-0. Trent Hunter, one of those on the bubble, will get another run with the top line. Andrei Loktionov, the only forward who could be sent down to the AHL without being placed on re-entry waivers, will center the third line, and Colin Fraser, Ethan Moreau and Kevin Westgarth will hold down the fourth. That means back to the press box for Brad Richardson and Trevor Lewis.

2. Quick history lesson – Based on Kings coach Terry Murray’s belief that a goalie’s past performance against a particular opponent is the most valuable piece of information when selecting a starter. Jonathan Quick is a no-brainer against the Panthers. He’s 2-0 in his career against Florida with 50 saves in 55 attempts. He’s also coming off his league-leading fourth shutout of the season, when he looked especially sharp against the Sharks from beginning to end. Quick has proved he can get on a roll too, evident by the franchise-record three consecutive shutouts he posted earlier this season. Murray indicated Jonathan Bernier would start Saturday against the visiting Montreal Canadiens.

3. Slow-vember – Kings right wing Justin Williams went the entire month of November without scoring a goal, a slump that has cost him a spot on the top line. Williams, who had 22 goals and 35 assists in 73 games last season, could be primed for a break-out performance against the Panthers, however. The former member of the Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes has played more games against the Panthers than any other team in the NHL, and with good success, tallying 14 goals and 14 assists in 41 games. Though he’s back on the third line, he showed good chemistry against the Sharks with the skillful Loktionov and the banger Kyle Clifford.

4. Charged up – The Kings had the fourth-best penalty-kill unit in the league last season. Without that success, they might not make the playoffs. This season hasn’t started out nearly so well. They allowed at least one power-play goal in eight straight games last month, four more than their longest streak last season. The Kings have started to perform like the penalty killers of old, however, killing off 18 consecutive power plays over the last four games to move up to 11th in the league in efficiency. They’ll be tested against Florida, which brings the league’s ninth-best power-play unit into the game.

5. Sturm watch – The Panthers, who ruined the debut of Carolina coach Kirk Muller with a 3-1 victory Tuesday in Raleigh, N.C., are the latest team to give veteran wing Marco Sturm a shot. Sturm, who played briefly for the Kings last season before he was picked up on waivers by Washington, is on his fifth team in the last 12 months. He might not be around Florida much longer either, producing just a goal and an assist in 17 games.
Dave Joseph and Pete Fox of ESPN 710 Radio team up to discuss the highlights of the Kings victory Thursday night against the visiting Florida Panthers. Anze Kopitar scored with 2:43 left for the winning goal in the 3-2 victory, ending a four-game losing streak.

Kings win, 3-2, on Kopitar's game-winner

December, 2, 2010
The free fall has ended, for now.

Anze Kopitar slapped in a rebound with 2 minutes 43 seconds remaining Thursday night and the Kings held on to beat the Florida Panthers, 3-2, at Staples Center and end a skid that had dropped them from first in the Western Conference to last in the Pacific Division.

The Kings had lost four straight and seven of eight coming in.

The winning goal was set up when Kings center Michal Handzus lost a face-off, but got the puck back with a hard forecheck in the right-wing corner. He passed out to Dustin Brown, who hammed a slap shot at the Florida goal. It deflected out to Kopitar who tucked it into the net for his ninth goal of the season.

The Kings tied the score, 2-2, at the 2:36 mark of the third period. Kyle Clifford cut to the net with the puck on his stick and, just before he got off a shot, it was poked out front by Florida defenseman Bryan McCabe.

Kings defenseman Peter Harrold, playing just his ninth game this season and first since Nov. 24, was in the right place and slammed the puck past Florida goalkeeper Tomas Vokoun for his first goal since last January.

Clifford got the assist for his long-awaited first NHL point.

Trevor Lewis missed a great opportunity for his first NHL goal a minute later when a rebound came off to the side, but he missed the open net.

Justin Williams started the game on the top line with Kopitar and Brown, but Williams was back on the second line with Ryan Smyth and Jarret Stoll in the third period, and Wayne Simmonds was back at right wing on the top line.

More to come from the locker room.

Kings: Panthers take 2-1 lead and quiet the house

December, 2, 2010
After the 2nd period: Florida Panthers 2, Kings 1

The good: Los Angeles still has the Clippers. Staples Center would be a great place to read a book right about now. It’s so quiet you can almost hear a puck drop (except the boos from the crowd to end the period). The Kings limited the Panthers to seven shots on goal. Unfortunately, one of them hit the back of the Los Angeles net to break the 1-1 tie with 4:09 left in the period.

The bad: The Kings have scored one goal against the Panthers, a team that gave up five last night in a loss to the Ducks, including two by Anaheim enforcer George Parros, the first two-goal game of his career. Florida got its goal against Los Angeles the way the Kings used to get theirs. Steve Bernier, the older brother of Kings back-up goalie Jonathan Bernier, jarred the puck loose along the boards while applying a stiff forecheck on Kings defenseman Jack Johnson. Steve Reinprecht collected the loose puck and slid it over to David Booth in between the face-off circles and he beat Jonathan Quick with a nifty wrist shot. The Kings were also penalized for the second time in the game for too many men on the ice. Florida will have a nice clean sheet of ice and 1:09 remaining on the power play when the third period begins. Johnson, by the way, is the only Los Angeles player at minus-2, and is now minus-14 for the last nine games.

The in between: The Kings can't be accused of not playing hard, they've out-hit the Panthers, 24-19, led by Matt Greene with five hits and Kyle Clifford with four. They really need to take the lead in that goal-scoring category, though.

Kings: Williams, Stoll, Smyth reunite for goal

December, 2, 2010
After the 1st period: Kings 1, Florida Panthers 1

The good: Justin Williams was moved up front from the second line to try and establish some much-needed scoring punch. Funny thing is, he briefly teamed back-up with former linemates Jarret Stoll and Ryan Smyth and they gave the Kings a 1-0 lead. The goal came 19 seconds after the Kings killed a power play, which is how Williams ended up back on the ice with Stoll and Smyth. Williams used to speed to chase down puck in the right-wing corner and then passed it back to Stoll, who fired it past Florida goalkeeper Tomas Vokoun at the 10:25 mark. Smyth also received an assist on the play. The Kings improved penalty-kill mark to 39-for-39 at home. The Kings remain the only team in the NHL that hasn’t allowed a power-play goal at home.

The bad: The Kings caught bad break on Florida’s goal. Keaton Ellerby took a slap shot that was deflected in front of the net, sending the puck high off the glass behind the Kings goal. The puck caromed back over the net and landed near the right post, where Michal Repik flicked it in with 6:09 left in the period. The Kings took just seven shots in the opening period, the same number they took in the first period of Monday’s loss to Anaheim. All in all, Florida played a better opening period.

The in between: Some shaky plays in the defensive zone by the Kings. Jonathan Quick made a couple good saves, but he also made two poor decisions when trying to clear the puck. Twice, he gave it right back to the Panthers, but they were unable to capitalize. Quick has remained the Kings' best player during the recent slide. They can’t afford to have him make mistakes too.

Kings: Florida on deck, is Marco Sturm in the hole?

December, 2, 2010
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.

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