|Kings, Panthers square off with trade deadline clearly in focus|
The Los Angeles Kings, losers of a season-high-tying six consecutive games, will visit the Florida Panthers on Saturday, and Monday's trade deadline is surely on the mind of both teams.
Florida has already made one trade, a lateral move of forwards on Feb. 1 in which the Panthers acquired Derick Brassard and Riley Sheahan while sending Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Los Angeles made a trade on Thursday, sending forward Carl Hagelin -- who won two Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh -- to the Washington Capitals in exchange for a third-round pick in this year's draft. The Kings also get a conditional sixth-round pick in 2020.
The Kings, who have the worst record in the Western Conference, now have 10 picks in the seven-round 2019 draft, another sign that a much-needed rebuild is underway.
"This is an unbelievable opportunity for our young players," Kings coach Willie Desjardins told the media of his team's approach. "If I'm a young guy, the only thing I want is a chance to play. Guys are getting that chance now."
Florida, meanwhile, had won three straight games before suffering a costly 4-3 home loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night.
The Panthers led 3-2 after two periods and appeared to have all the momentum with three straight second-period goals, but they were unable to hold off the Hurricanes.
After the game, Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle told the media he overheard the referees plotting to call penalties on his team. Carolina had eight power plays in the game to just five for Florida.
"Having to kill penalties like that, it's tough when it's premediated from the refs," Yandle said. "It's tough when points mean so much and the refs have a hand in the outcome."
The Hurricanes had three power plays in the third period and scored on two of them -- the tying and winning goals.
Florida successfully killed off one 5-on-3 Hurricanes power play, but even that was a sore spot for Yandle, who pointed out that the Panthers' best players were expending their energy for defense instead of offense.
In the final 27 seconds of the game, however, the Panthers had two extra attackers -- pulling goalie James Reimer and getting a power play -- but they failed to get the tying goal.
"We needed an extra 10 seconds," Yandle said.
Indeed, time is running out this season on the Panthers, who enter Saturday trailing the Penguins by 11 points in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Kings' visit will end a run in which 12 of 13 Panthers games were played at home inside the BB&T Center, where Florida is 15-11-5 this season. So far during this long home stretch, the Panthers are 6-5-0, which means they have not truly capitalized on the favorable schedule.
Reimer has started four straight games, going 3-1-0, but he may give way to Roberto Luongo on Saturday.
After Reimer started against Calgary last Thursday, Luongo missed a game Sunday after he suffered a death in the family, and he served as the backup for the past two contests.
For the season, they have been virtually interchangeable.
Luongo, a 39-year-old who is nearing the end of a Hall of Fame career, has made 29 starts and has a 3.14 goals-against average, an .895 save percentage and a 12-13-1 record.
Reimer, 30, is 13-11-5 with a 3.05 GAA and a .901 save percentage.
Captain Aleksander Barkov has 24 goals and leads the Panthers with 62 points. Mike Hoffman leads the team with 26 goals, and Jonathan Huberdeau is on top of the Panthers list with 42 assists. Yandle (45 points) is one of top power-play defensemen in the league, and the Panthers have four 20-goal scorers currently on the active roster.
For the Kings, center and team captain Anze Kopitar -- a strong two-way player -- leads the way with 17 goals and 44 points. Oddly, he has 12 assists but no goals on the power play.
Winger Dustin Brown, part of an aging Kings roster at age 34, has slumped from a career-best 61 points last season to just 33 now.
Defenseman Drew Doughty -- who got an eight-year, $88-million contract extension this past offseason -- leads the Kings with 28 assists, including a team-high 13 with the man advantage.
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, 33, won 33 games last season but is just 11-15-5 this time around. His goals-against average has increased from 2.40 to 3.06 -- easily the worst mark of his career, not counting his entrance into the league in 2007-08, when he played just three games.
It's an amazing fall for Quick, who won a silver medal a part of Team USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics and has also led the Kings to Stanley Cup titles in 2012 and '14 -- earning Conn Smythe honors in 2012.
It's not just Quick who has slumped, however, as the Kings have won just one playoff game since lifting the Stanley Cup in 2014.
--Field Level Media