HOW TO WATCH
Game Time: 7:30 PM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: Fear the Fin
Well, well, well. We meet again, San Jose.
For the fourth time since 2014, the Kings are facing off against their neighbors to the north on opening night. (The only outlier was last season, in which the Kings played the Sharks in their second game of the year instead.) The head-to-head record hasn’t turned out too well for the Kings; they’re 1-3-0 if you include last year’s not-quite-opening-night matchup. One loss was a one-goal affair; the other two were shutouts.
I’m already feeling optimistic. Aren’t you?
WHO AND WHAT TO WATCH FOR
- For the Kings, Austin Wagner will make his NHL debut, playing on the third line alongside Adrian Kempe and Trevor Lewis. Kempe and Wagner are both speedy skaters. Look to see how John Stevens uses them — the possibility of having two players with speed, and Kempe’s potential for creativity with the puck, could, in the best case scenario, be a real game changer for the Kings. Then again, Lewis, Kempe, and Wagner are all players who often go very long streaks without scoring, so we could have a line with lots of possession and very little offense to show for it. (That’s so Kings.)
- Ilya Kovalchuk will make his debut on the top line, albeit not quite where we thought he would be. He’ll be playing the role of Dustin Brown, assuming the top line right wing spot. We’ve yet to see what Kovalchuk can really do, aside from some nifty stickhandling and a cool shoot-out goal in an intra-squad scrimmage. He could be another player who just flips the switch when the meaningful games start. Well, tonight’s his chance.
- We’ll have to wait to see Jaret Anderson-Dolan’s NHL debut. He’ll be a healthy scratch tonight as John Stevens takes a page out of Darryl Sutter’s book, going with what will be perceived as a heavier, more physical lineup against the Sharks. JAD could make his debut on the road to ease him in against lesser competition in places like Detroit and Montreal. Keep an eye on this space though, if he continues to sit for no apparent reason. (Also sitting: Paul LaDue.)
- San Jose comes off of a 5-2 loss to Anaheim in their season opener, a performance that mostly all of them are going to want back. (Maybe not Tomas Hertl, he might be okay with it.)
- One of the biggest areas of weakness for San Jose was special teams - they failed to score on any of their power play opportunities, and gave up two goals while shorthanded. Discipline has seemingly always been an issue for the California teams, Los Angeles included. Look for the Sharks to try to play a much more disciplined game — and hope that the Kings don’t find themselves goaded into taking too many penalties to give the Sharks the opportunity to get that top power play unit working at full strength.
- Martin Jones had a rough night, as well, surrendering a goal on the first shot of the season for the third time. He’s always performed fairly well against his old team, though, so the Kings will need to test him early and often.
- Also, don’t let this distract you: