Previewing the Los Angeles Kings' 2012-13 season:
Game 1 vs. Chicago
January 19, 2013
12pm PST (3pm EST)
It has been 224 days since they raised the Stanley Cup but the Los Angeles Kings are finally back. After an emotional, drama-filled 113-day lockout, there is a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place and as a result, the Kings can rightfully begin the defense of their championship with their first game coming Saturday afternoon against the Chicago Blackhawks.
As per tradition, the reigning Stanley Cup champions will see their championship banner raised to the rafters in a pre-game ceremony in addition to receiving their championship rings. Once the puck drops though, it’s the start a brand new season.
After struggling against the Blackhawks in recent years, the Kings went 3-1-0 against Chicago last season which included three-straight victories. In fact, the last time the two teams squared off at Staples Center was on February 27 when captain Dustin Brown answered trade rumours by scoring a hat-trick and from there, turning his season right around.
Despite the recent trade of tough guy Kevin Westgarth (with Anthont Stewart coming to Los Angeles), the Kings have kept their championship core intact although the team is missing Anze Kopitar who is nursing a knee injury suffered earlier this month in Sweden.
If there is any uncertainty about the Kings this season, it’s the health status of goaltender Jonathan Quick who had off-season back surgery. Thanks to the lockout, the reigning Conn Smythe winner was able to use the time to recuperate from said surgery. Had the season started as regularly scheduled, Quick would have had to miss at least the first month of the season. Also thanks to the lockout, the Kings are, for all intents and purposes, over their championship hangover.
Despite Los Angeles’ success against them last season, don’t overlook the Chicago Blackhawks. Just two seasons removed from their own Stanley Cup win, they’ve added a couple players to the mix: the defensive-minded blue-liner Sheldon Brookbank and Michal Rozsival who when he last saw the Kings, was delivered a controversial knee-on-knee hit from Dustin Brown, just seconds before the Kings eliminated Rozsival’s then-team, the Phoenix Coyotes, from the playoffs.
While Marcus Kruger and Viktor Stalberg each had a pair of points against the Kings last season, production was hard to come by for the Hawks when they faced off against the silver-and-black. Of Chicago’s three losses to the Kings last season, two were shutouts.
There are some high expectations for both teams entering the season and we’ll see how each team begins. It’s time, once and for all, to drop the puck.
Enjoy the game!
Photo: Courtesy of Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press