Game Day Preview #11, New York Rangers @ Los Angeles Kings
The struggling Rangers come to town, Dustin Brown’s back, sounds perfect, right?
HOW TO WATCH
Game Time: 12:30 PM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: Blueshirt Banter
How the Mighty Have Fallen
For both of these teams, 2014 seems like it was ages ago. We all know what the Kings have done since then, and it’s not too different of a story for the Rangers. While the Rangers continued to make playoffs appearances, even making it to the Conference Finals in 2014-15, they were never really convincing as a Cup contender. Amid diminishing returns, an aging core, and an elite goaltender struggling through injury and a slight decline in performance, the Rangers entered full rebuild mode this off-season. Veteran players were shipped out at the deadline, the Rangers missed the playoffs, and head coach Alain Vigneault was fired.
With new head coach David Quinn plucked from the NCAA, the Rangers are working to integrate more youth into their lineup, with eight players under the age of 25 on their roster. The Rangers too dwell at the bottom of their division and until their young players are ready to make the jump to become stars, it’s going to be a long season.
Plus One Dustin Brown, Minus One Jonathan Quick
That’s right. Jonathan Quick is hurt again. Perhaps in another season, one where the Kings had already gotten out to a good start, the injuries that have been nagging Quick — this one is a different injury from the one that kept him out earlier — are ones that he would have played through. Pure speculation, of course, but in a season that’s started off dismal and isn’t looking to improve any time soon, it would be easy to believe that the team is being more cautious with Jonathan Quick than usual. Regardless, we’ll be seeing a lot more of Jack Campbell, and the decision to trade for Peter Budaj is looking even better, if only to keep Cal Petersen in Ontario, where he’ll get regular minutes instead of sitting on the bench with the Kings.
The bigger addition is Dustin Brown, and I’m sure if you went in a time machine and told a past version of you that getting Dustin Brown back from injury was a moment Kings fans were looking forward to — well, you’d understand the laughter, right? Regardless, Brown’s resurgence last season, when given a coach who trusted him and the minutes to back that up, showed that he’s still an integral part of this team. Brown has a penchant for ugly goals around the net, and try as the Kings might, they haven’t found anyone else who goes there with quite the same ferocity.
Is Dustin Brown the savior to the Kings’ season? Likely not, but his return will be a shot in the arm for a team which can’t seem to claw its way out of the hole they created.
Who are the Rangers, exactly? To be determined, at this point. A team with a storied history and a Hall of Fame goalie, struggling to climb out of the basement of the league’s standings and make themselves relevant again. (Oof, that really does sound familiar.) Despite this being a rebuilding year for the Rangers, there are some bright spots. Jesper Fast is proving himself to be quite the useful utility player, most at home in the bottom six, but capable of playing at any place in the lineup if needed. They’re getting to see what more of the young players have to offer, something that didn’t really happen in Vigneault’s tenure. And Henrik Lundqvist continues to be Henrik Lundqvist, keeping his team in games they oftentimes have no business being in.
The Rangers are coming off of a disappointing loss in Chicago, a game where they mustered only one shot in the third period and had difficulty controlling the puck all night long. And even this, too, is familiar for Kings fans: a team that can’t keep possession, can’t gain the offensive zone, and when it does get there, can’t make anything happen. The Rangers are motivated to get back on track, and the Kings are the perfect team for opponents to see as one to feast on. If the Kings play the way they did in Dallas — fast, tenacious, motivated — it’s possible they could come away with a win. If they look as disinterested as they have for much of the rest of the season, well. We know how that will end.