March 31, 2014

The Florida Panthers' solid start to the season has given way to a rough stretch.

Things haven't gone all that smoothly for the Los Angeles Kings of late, either.

The Panthers look to avoid a fifth consecutive defeat by ending their lengthy road struggles against the Kings on Saturday.

Florida (5-5-3) totaled 14 goals while winning three of the first four, but has scored more than two twice in the nine games that have followed. The Panthers recorded 10 goals in consecutive victories over Dallas and Colorado on Oct. 24 and 27, but have scored six times during the ensuing 0-2-2 slide.

They've gone 2 for 15 on the power play and have not scored in the third period in those four games.

"We've been in our end the better part of two weeks now," defenseman Willie Mitchell told the NHL's official website after Thursday's 5-2 loss at San Jose. "It's tough when you're defending all the time ... Things you can get away with in junior hockey won't cut it here."

It hasn't helped that talented forward Aleksander Barkov, who has three goals and three assists, has been out since suffering a wrist injury Oct. 22.

"You want to play in the offensive end but when you turn over pucks like we did (Thursday) you're going to be in your end all night," Mitchell said.

"More of the fundamentals of our game right now is not nearly good enough ... Work, (and) smart plays beat skills any day of the week. We need to bring a little more work and game management."

Florida, which last dropped five in a row Jan. 13-27, has been outscored 20-8 in a six-game losing streak at Los Angeles.

The Kings (8-5-0) hope that trend continues as they try to get back on track after losing two of three to follow a seven-game winning streak. Los Angeles was left frustrated by Thursday's 3-2 loss to Columbus.

The Blue Jackets scored twice on eight first-period shots and didn't have any on goal in the second.

''When you hold a team to eight shots in the first two periods and you're still down, I think you're not doing a good job in the scoring areas and bearing down when you get them,'' Kings forward Milan Lucic said. ''It definitely wasn't our best effort from how we've been playing as of late. Hopefully we can learn from something like this, no matter who your opponent is.''

Alec Martinez and Jeff Carter scored for Los Angeles, which has totaled seven goals in three games since averaging 3.6 in the previous five.

"We've got to just regroup here and get ready for who we've got next," defenseman Jake Muzzin said.

Carter has a goal in two straight games and four with three assists in the past six. He has a goal and two assists in the last two at home against Florida.

Jonathan Quick, who made 22 saves against the Blue Jackets, is 4-0-0 with a 1.25 goals-against average against the Panthers at home.

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