Previewing the Los Angeles Kings' 2011-12 season:

 

Game 25 vs. Florida

 

December 1, 2011

 

7:30pm PST (10:30pm EST)

 

 

The Los Angeles Kings open December by hosting one of the league’s most pleasant surprises this season in the Florida Panthers. The action begins tomorrow night at 7:30pm PST (10:30pm EST). Tomorrow night will be the first of two meeting this season between the two clubs. Last time they faced off against each other, in fact, was almost a year to the day as the Kings edged Florida by a 3-2 score at Staples Center last December 2. The two clubs will meet again on February 8, which will be in Sunrise.

 

At 13-7-4, the Panthers sit first in the Southeast Division and second in the Eastern Conference. Backed by their new head coach Kevin Dineen, the Panthers have a new lease on life and are determined to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2000. The Panthers, though, have a great combination and talent and youth in their lineup and are led in scoring by Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleischmann and Stephen Weiss, who have 26, 24 and 23 points so far, respectively. Versteeg leads the Panthers in goals with 12 followed by Fleischmann with 11. Veteran Ed Jovanovski (who knows the Kings quite well from his days in Phoenix) leads his team among blueliners with two goals. It doesn’t seem like a lot but don’t let that mislead you as Brian Campbell leads the way in points among defensemen with 20, followed by Dmitry Kulikov with 15.

 

Despite losing Tomas Vokoun to free agency this past summer, veteran Jose Theodore has admirably taken over the reigns in goal, posting a 10-4-3 record to go along with a 2.29 GAA and a .924 save-percentage while posting a shutout along the way.

 

In addition to their offensive punch, the Kings will welcome back a familiar face as Marco Sturm makes his first trip back to Staples Center since ending his admittedly brief 17-game tenure with the Kings this past February.

 

Despite what was thought earlier in the week, Dustin Penner will not be in the lineup tomorrow night. Although he was cleared by play by doctors, Penner indicated that he wasn’t quite ready to return after this morning’s practice. As a result, the lineups for Los Angeles will remain the same, including in goal as Jonathan Quick will try to build off his 33-save shutout performance during Monday night’s win against San Jose.

 

Considering how well the Panthers have played thus far, it’s fortunate for the Kings that they don’t have to get too familiar with their opponents tomorrow night. Having said that, though, the Kings cannot and should not take the Panthers lightly. After all, if this season’s been any indication, they have no reason to.

 

The Los Angeles Kings hope to begin December the same way they ended November: with a win. Let’s hope they can do just that. Enjoy the game!

 

 

 

Photo: Courtesy of Frank Franklin/AP Photo

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