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Top line clicking as Panthers’ road trip stops in L.A.

Sportsnaut
Oct 29, 2022; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Florida Panthers center Carter Verhaeghe (23) celebrates a goal in the second period against the Ottawa Senators with teammates center Aleksander Barkov (16) and left wing Matthew Tkachuk (19) at FLA Live Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Panthers have lost three straight games against the Los Angeles Kings, including two last season.

On Saturday night in Los Angeles, the Panthers will try again.

It will be the third of Florida’s four-game road trip, which continued in dramatic fashion with a 4-3 shootout win over the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night.

Matthew Tkachuk, who led the Panthers with a game-high 10 shots on goal, also tops the team in assists (11) and points (16).

New to the Panthers this season, Tkachuk has meshed seamlessly with Aleksander Barkov and Carter Verhaeghe.

“I don’t have to do too much with those guys — they’re unbelievable,” Tkachuk said. “We’ve clicked right away.”

But while Tkachuk, Barkov (nine points) and Verhaeghe (nine points) rank top three on the Panthers in scoring, other Florida forwards have been struggling.

Such is the case with Sam Reinhart, who has no goals and two assists in 11 games.

However, while it doesn’t count as an official goal, Reinhart was the only one of eight combined skaters to get a puck in the net in Thursday’s shootout.

“Whether it’s a shootout or the game, it was nice to see the puck go in,” Reinhart said. “Hopefully I can loosen up around the net, and the puck starts going in for me.”

As for the Panthers goalies, Sergei Bobrovsky on Thursday improved to 3-3-1 with a .901 save percentage and a 3.02 goals-against average. It’s possible, though, that Bobrovsky gets a rest on Saturday in favor of backup Spencer Knight, who is off to a good start (3-1-0, .899 SP, 2.53 GAA).

The Kings, meanwhile, have lost two straight: 5-2 at the Dallas Stars on Tuesday and 2-1 in overtime at the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday.

Now the Kings are set to open a four-game homestand, hoping that their most recent defeat at least put them on the right track defensively.

“We talked about fixing things after the Dallas game,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “We saw it (Thursday). We did a good job (defensively), giving up very few outnumbered rushes.”

The loss was a bit of misfortune, McLellan said.

“Sometimes bounces go against you,” he said.

For the season, winger Kevin Fiala, 26, leads the Kings in assists (10) and is tied with Gabriel Vilardi for the top spot in points (13). Vilardi, age 23, also leads the team with eight goals. Both players are former first-round picks, though Fiala was originally drafted by Nashville in 2014.

Arthur Kaliyev, who at age 21 is in his second full season in the NHL, leads the Kings in power-play goals with three. He had just six power-play goals in 80 games last season.

Mixed in with the Kings’ youth movement are veterans such as goalie Jonathan Quick (36), center Anze Kopitar (35) and defenseman Drew Doughty (32). All three were part of the Kings’ Stanley Cup titles in 2012 and ‘14.

Quick, a three-time All-Star, is off to a 3-4-1 start with an .889 SP and a 3.26 GAA.

Kopitar, a five-time All-Star, has two goals and eight assists.

Doughty, a five-time All-Star and the Norris Trophy winner in 2016, has one goal and five assists.

–Field Level Media