After upping its record to 5-3-1 courtesy of a 5-3 win over the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, the Florida Panthers will spend this week out west, playing a four-game road trip that starts in Arizona and then sees the Cats facing off against the NHL’s three California-based teams. Let’s take a quick look at the quartet of clubs awaiting the Panthers
Arizona Coyotes (Tuesday - 10 p.m.)
The rebuilding Coyotes, expected to be in the thick of Connor Bedard sweepstakes, are off to a 2-5-1 start. Florida will be the third team to pay a visit to the Desert Dogs temporary new home, Mullett Arena on the campus of Arizona State University. The Coyotes dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the Winnipeg Jets on Friday and were edged 3-2 by the New York Rangers last night at the Mullett. It will be interesting to see how Panthers handle playing in the 5,000 seat venue. They don’t want to get the trek off to bad start and be the Coyotes first victim at the Mullett.
San Jose Sharks (Thursday - 10:30 p.m.)
The Sharks lead the NHL in games played (11), but have picked up just six out of a possible 22 points, giving them the league’s worst point percent (.273). Erik Karlsson has been a bright spot for San Jose. After struggling the last two seasons, the 32-year-old defenseman leads the club in scoring with six goals and 11 points.
Los Angeles Kings (Saturday - 10:30 p.m.)
The toughest opponent for the Cats (on paper) during this trip is the Los Angeles Kings, the only one of the four foes to make the playoffs last season. It’s been a up and down start for the Kings this season, but after winning two of their last three games (over quality teams Toronto and Tampa Bay), Todd McLellan’s bunch is back to .500 at 5-5. New acquisition Kevin Fiala collected a goal and an assist in Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Maple Leafs.
Anaheim Ducks (Sunday 9 p.m.)
Florida will finish off the trip by playing the not so mighty Ducks in the second half of a SoCal back-to-back. Anaheim is just 2-6-1, but they do have cast of dangerous up-and-comers like Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry and Mason MacTavish. Former Panthers Frank Vatrano and Dmitry Kulikov are currently toiling for the Ducks. Working in Florida’s favor is Anaheim will be returning from a three-game road trip to play the Cats and will also have played on Saturday, so both teams will be weary.
While a four-game road trip is never easy, this one lines up pretty nicely for Florida. If they continue to carry play at 5-on-5, get good goaltending, and see improvement on the power play, they should be able to win three out of four of these games.