LA Kings at Colorado Avalanche
Time: 6 PM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West, Center Ice (free preview)
Games all around the league this week had a very preseason feel. Too bad there isn't one this year, because LA is still working out the kinks.
Here are the likely rosters for the Kings' first road game of the season.
Colorado's projected lineup:
Scratches: O'Brien, Kobasew, Hunwick
The Colorado Avalanche were a middle of the pack possession team in 2011-12. Defense is not their strong suit, but they could be in the mix for a playoff spot this year, especially if Varlamov shines in goal (he played very well in 16 KHL games during the lockout, so he should have an edge there).
However, key tough minutes center Ryan O'Reilly is still unsigned at this point, and a long holdout could damage their chances significantly. Some GMs get locked into the idea that they're going to get an RFA discount come hell or high water, but if your 21-year-old center took on the toughest competition last year and thrived, you have to ask: Where else would that money be better spent? Even though Stastny and Duchene are due for bounceback seasons, Avs fans should hope it's settled soon.
Also of note: Steve Downie is still Steve Downie, meaning he blew his top and took some hilarious penalties in their 4-2 loss to the Wild. Ha ha. Maybe that 80th lecture on discipline will sink in!
Scratches: Richardson, Bodnarchuk
IR: Greene (back surgery, 6 weeks to 3 months), Mitchell (traveling with the team).
Anze Kopitar has returned, so sound the trumpets, the regular forward lineup is back. The reshuffled top six didn't produce in their 5-2 loss on Saturday, leading Sutter to remark that he hoped their shifts won't be a waste of minutes ever again.
Robert dug into the shots and scoring chances, and while the picture on the whole wasn't as terrible as the final score, there are clear areas for improvement. Richards, in particular, cannot continue to be a drag on the second line.
Mitchell and Greene usually handle a lot of PK time, so Doughty, Scuderi, and the rest will be called upon to take on even tougher minutes. Sutter should shelter the heck out of Drewiske and Muzzin. They'll need it.
Jonathan Quick had a few shots go in off his defenders, but he could be sharper as well. Schneider and Lundqvist also had some of the worst stats in the opening weekend, so we can't read too much into this, but of course rivals around the league will be watching breathlessly and hoping he falters.
But the goalie leaderboards will be topsy turvy for a while, and defensemen around the league are still getting up to speed. I trust the Kings will have better passes and a tighter team defense as time marches on. If they settle back into being a top possession team, they won't need to be as reliant on goaltending.
Colorado's speed usually gives the Kings a bit of trouble, so we hope the team clicks sooner than later. Sutter's cowboy boots are on and ready for butt-kicking. Buckle up.