For the last few years, the most anticipated matchup between these two clubs has been at the annual Frozen Fury in Las Vegas. But like the Kings were not too long ago, the Colorado Avalanche have been properly rebuilding as they hope to return to their glory years of the late-90's, early-00's. Plus, with a playoff spot on top of their rookie coach winning the Jack Adams trophy last season, the Avs are certainly on their way up in the West.
Last season, however, it was Los Angeles who got the better end of the season series, finishing 2-0-1 against their rivals from the Rockies. In fact, the Kings's only loss to the Avs was their first meeting of the season when the silver-and-black lost 1-0 in overtime despite a solid performance in goal by now ex-King Ben Scrivens. But the Avalanche certainly won't let their record against the Kings last season deter them. After all, they do boast one of the most exciting young cores in all of hockey from Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog to Nathan MacKinnon and Ryan O'Reilly. But the Avs needed some veteran presence and after a very busy off-season, they did just that.
Coming to Denver will be the likes of Jarome Iginla and Daniel Briere in addition to former Los Angeles blueliner Brad Stuart. In regards to the latter, the Avs are hoping the 34-year-old can make a difference as last year, Colorado allowed the sixth-most shots (2,678) in all of the NHL. Plus, with the retirement of Jean-Sebastien Giguere, there will likely be a young netminder trying to battle Semyon Varlamov for the starting job in goal.
On the other side of the coin, the Avs lost a few key players, most notably Paul Stastny and PA Parenteau. Also, just announced today, Colorado has re-signed defenseman Tyson Barrie to a two-year contract. Speaking of Stastny's departure, Nathan MacKinnon will likely move from the wing to center which is his natural position. This may cause a great deal of concern for defensive units around the league, including Los Angeles's. But we'll just have to see.
Last season, under the guidance of Hall-of-Famer Patrick Roy behind the bench, the Avalanche finished with a stellar 52-22-8 record and their 112 points was good enough for tops in the Central Division and second in the Western Conference.
"This is probably the most surprising division championship that this team ever had," Roy told NHL.com of its first title since 2002-03, Roy's final season as a player. "Nobody expected to see us where we were, to finish ahead of Chicago and St. Louis. It is something very special. From the get-go our guys came to camp and they were ready and they wanted to be different and they wanted to see a change."
But these two teams will not have to worry about each other for quite a while. After their annual meetup in Sin City (October 4), the Kings don't meet in the regular season until February 8 when the silver-and-black travel to Denver. The two clubs will then meet twice more and who knows, maybe again in the playoffs.
Okay, let's not get too ahead of ourselves.