Earlier this week, the NHL released its preseason schedule for 2014 and the Los Angeles Kings, as per usual, will be participating in pairs of matchup with the Colorado Avalanche, Anaheim Ducks and the Phoenix, err... Arizona Coyotes. Los Angeles's other game will be a rematch of their first-round playoff series against the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center. Of course in all fairness, there won't be very much on the line this time.

While Kings fans are determined to have a celebratory summer, they also cannot wait for next season to begin so they can see their team raise their championship banner and begin their Stanley Cup defense. But before the regular season begins, the Kings will have one final tune-up at their annual Frozen Fury game at the MGM in Las Vegas on October 4 against the aforementioned Avalanche.
 

Photo credit: kings.nhl.com

The Kings will open the 2014 preseason on Monday, September 22 with two split-squad games against the Arizona Coyotes - one at Staples Center and the other at Jobing.com Arena. Here is the rest of the schedule courtesy of LAKingsInsider Jon Rosen:

Monday, September 22, 7:00 p.m.: KINGS at Arizona, Jobing.com Arena (split squad)
Monday, September 22, 7:30 p.m.: KINGS vs Arizona, STAPLES Center (split squad)
Thursday, September 25, 7:30 p.m.: KINGS vs Anaheim, STAPLES Center
Sunday, September 28, 5:00 p.m.: KINGS at Anaheim, Honda Center
Tuesday, September 30, 7:30 p.m.: KINGS at San Jose, SAP Center
Thursday, October 2, 6:00 p.m.: KINGS at Colorado, Broadmoor World Arena (Battle of the Broadmoor)
Saturday, October 4, 7:00 p.m.: KINGS vs Colorado, MGM Grand Garden Arena (Frozen Fury 16)
*All times PT

When the mention of preseason is brought up, there is understandably a lack of excitement. While it is a chance for the fans to see their teams back after the summer hiatus, the games don't mean anything in the standings. For the players, however, it means a bit more. For those roster regulars, it may be just another day at the office but for rookies and training camp invitees, the preseason schedule could prove to be the difference between starting the regular season in the NHL, going back to the minors (or junior) or even retiring.

While few are holding their breath that any current Kings prospects (or free-agent signings depending on what happens this summer) will start the year with the big club, the preseason always finds a way to deliver a surprise or two - even if it involves the reigning champions.

But while the preseason generally lacks the same elation fans would find at the beginning of the regular season, this year is going to be extra special for the Los Angeles Kings.

When they won their first Stanley Cup in 2012, the Los Angeles Kings entered a summer of uncertainty as the impending lockout became front-and-center for the NHL entering the fall. With the way negotiations (or lack thereof) for a new collective bargaining agreement were going, many doubted that the Kings would even have the opportunity to defend their crown. Instead, there was discussion that, if a new CBA wasn't reached by a certain timeframe, the Kings would receive the hollow victory of remaining Stanley Cup champions without even stepping onto the ice.

The season was salvaged and Jonathan Quick, who had back surgery during the work stoppage, was given the time he needed to recuperate. But the Kings, like the other 29 teams, didn't have a training camp or a preseason. Due to time constraints, every team was rushed into dropping the puck on the abbreviated regular season.

On the surface, it seemed as though the time off would have cured the Los Angeles Kings of their Stanley Cup hangover, but they started the season slow before picking up the pace that ultimately led to a berth in the Western Final for the second-straight year. Still, going from labour negotiations to starting a season in such a short period of time was a tough transition for everyone involved.

For the Kings and their fans, 2014's version of Frozen Fury will be a very special event. Since the team was forced to cancel the event in 2012 due to the aforementioned lockout, the Los Angeles Kings and their loyal fanbase did not have their opportunity to celebrate their ultimate victory. But now, the Kings will finally have the chance to celebrate their championship win in Las Vegas. Frozen Fury weekend has always been a big party for Kings fans and with a Stanley Cup to boot, do not be surprised to see an even bigger party this year.

Best of all, when the regular season does commence, the Los Angeles Kings will get to raise their Stanley Cup banner on time and it will not have to clouded by off-ice propaganda between two sides too stubborn to get along. When exactly the Kings will get to raise their banner and who their opponents will be will not be determined until the NHL releases their 2014-15 regular-season schedule later.

Photo credit: AP

When the Kings did eventually raise their inaugural championship banner, it came with heavy hearts as David Courtney, the public-address announcer for the Los Angeles Kings, has passed away less than two months earlier. Courtney, who was also the PA voice of MLB's Los Angeles Angels and NBA's Los Angeles Clippers, was just 56. Those fans in Los Angeles who were angered by the lockout were even more so when Courtney died, as the man who had contributed so much to the Los Angeles Kings, never had the opportunity to see that long-awaited, much-deserved championship banner get raised to the rafters.

But this year, there is no lockout, no off-the-ice animosity and best of all, no uncertainty. The Los Angeles Kings will have their training camp and their preseason followed by their opportunity to celebrate with their fans, first at Frozen Fury and then at the regular season home-opener. From there, a normal championship defense.

Some may take such a scenario for granted, but for the Kings and their fans, September could not arrive fast enough.