KINGS (18-25-5) AT PANTHERS (24-16-5)
7 p.m. ET; FS-F, FS-W, NHL.TV
The Florida Panthers are riding the high off their best offensive performance in their biggest game of the season behind one of their brightest stars last Sunday.
The Atlantic Division team will look to carry that momentum into Thursday’s contest when it hosts the Los Angeles Kings to close a four-game homestand.
Repeating Sunday’s energy and sharpshooting performance from its 8-4 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs will be Florida’s biggest challenge.
The Panthers tallied four times on their first 12 shots on goalie Frederik Andersen, chasing the All-Star netminder on the first shot of the second period. They didn’t let up either, notching goals on the first two attempts against backup Michael Hutchinson.
By the 12:37 mark of the second, the home side held a 7-1 lead, and the only drama left would be if it would reach a season-high eight goals, and if All-Star left wing Jonathan Huberdeau could record one more point and break Olli Jokinen’s franchise scoring record of 419 career points.
Both were accomplished on the same play.
Following three straight tallies by Toronto, Huberdeau recorded the primary assist on the contest’s final marker — a power-play one-timer by Mike Hoffman — to eclipse Jokinen’s milestone.
Huberdeau, 26, has a team-high 61 points in 45 games, including 43 assists, for an average of 1.36 points per game.
“I never thought I would still have the record after 12 years,” said Jokinen, a resident of nearby Parkland. “Huberdeau is a great guy to be a new leader. I’m a big fan of the way he plays. When he is on the ice, you can expect something good to happen, and the chemistry with his line is unreal.”
Florida’s goalie situation remains unclear.
Backup Chris Driedger started Sunday and made a career-high 43 saves to beat the Maple Leafs, with Samuel Montembeault called up to be the backup with No. 1 netminder Sergei Bobrovsky (upper body) injured.
Deemed questionable for Thursday, Bobrovsky left after his morning workout, while Driedger and Montembeault handled Wednesday’s practice duties.
Los Angeles, meanwhile, played a strong game in Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, taking 2-0 and 3-2 leads. But the Lightning scored late in regulation to tie it and won the contest 4-3 in the shootout behind Steven Stamkos’ game-deciding goal against Jonathan Quick.
Quick played a spirited game — he was nearly knocked out of the game by a one-time blast from Stamkos in the second — but lost for the sixth time in his last seven starts (1-5-1).
The Kings, who have lost five of their last six games, are 1-1-1 on a five-game road trip that ends in Philadelphia on Saturday, and coach Todd McLellan has stressed faster, more physical play.
Los Angeles led 2-0 in the first period after goals by Jeff Carter and Kyle Clifford. Dustin Brown scored the tiebreaking marker on the power play with eight minutes remaining, but Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov tied it at 3 with goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy on the bench and an extra skater on the ice.
“A fairly good effort,” McLellan said. “I thought there were a few sluggish players today. When you play against that type of team, you need legs and more than two or three lines going. We were a little bit short, so we’ve got to fix that going into Florida.”
–Field Level Media