LOS ANGELES – Greetings hockey fans!
The Panthers are on the road for their west coast trip and Local 10 News is along for the ride.
This is the first entry in my road trip journal which will hopefully be a fun way for the Cats fans in South Florida (or wherever they may be) to follow along as the team hits Los Angeles, San Jose, Las Vegas and Anaheim over the next several days.
Today the team left Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport around 9 a.m. and flew to LAX, and I’m told there were actually a handful of Panthers fans at Fort Lauderdale airport to see the team off, which is pretty cool.
After arriving, the Panthers went straight from the airport to the Kings’ practice facility, the Toyota Sports Center, which is just a short drive from LAX. Going directly from a long cross-country fight to the practice rink was a pretty smart move in my opinion.
Sure, the team could’ve held a practice back home before flying to California, but this way, instead of sitting on a plane for six hours and then just going to their hotel, the Cats got off the plane and hit the ice, working out any stiffness or whatever might come from being cooped up on a plane for so long.
Speaking to Panthers Interim Head Coach Andrew Brunette after practice, he didn’t have a starting goalie yet for Sunday’s game against the Kings, but we know it will be either Sergei Bobrovsky or rookie Spencer Knight, who was recalled from AHL Charlotte on Friday.
Bruno did reveal that Anton Lundell and Ryan Lomberg, both of whom are currently on Injured Reserve, did not travel with the team and as such, would not be getting back into the lineup until at least after the Trade Deadline, which is coming up on March 21.
Florida’s first game after the deadline is the following Thursday, March 24, which gives both players ample time to heal up and hopefully get back in the lineup.
Joe Thornton, who has been on IR for the past few weeks, did travel with the team and was on the ice Saturday wearing a white non-contact jersey. Brunette is hopeful that Thornton will be able to come off IR in the next couple days, before the Panthers play in San Jose on Tuesday.
Thornton, who is playing in his 24th NHL season, spent the majority of his career (15 years) with the Sharks, and has not played there since leaving the team following the 2019-20 season. Thonton’s return to San Jose will be a major homecoming for the guy they call Jumbo, one that will get national attention.
If I had to guess, he’ll be in the lineup on Tuesday.
Before we get to San Jose, the Panthers have a game to play on Sunday night in Los Angeles against the Kings. It should be a good test for the Cats, who have won five straight games overall as well as five straight on the road.
The Kings are having a very solid year, currently sitting in second place in the Pacific Division, three points behind the Calgary Flames.
Los Angeles has been enjoying a good stretch since the latter parts of January, going 12-3-3 over their past 18 contests.
Much of their success, however, has come on the road. The Kings are just 14-11-2 on home ice, compared to 15-6-5 when playing away from Crypto.com Arena (formerly known as Staples Center).
It’s also worth noting that the Kings are playing at San Jose on Saturday night, so the Panthers will catch them on the back end of a back-to-back.
We’ll see if the Cats can kick off their west coast swing with a big win in LA. Puck drops Sunday night at 10 p.m. ET.
Keep an eye out for the next road trip journal entry following the game!