NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, October 3rd (All times eastern)
Phoenix Coyotes (0-0-0) at Los Angeles Kings (0-0-0), 10:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Kings haven't reached the postseason since 2002. That is just one year earlier than the Coyotes last trip to the playoffs.
Los Angeles and Phoenix become the final two clubs to start the 2009-10 season tonight in a Pacific Division battle at the Staples Center.
Both the Kings and Coyotes finished with 79 points last year, 12 points out of a postseason spot, but while Phoenix is still in ownership limbo, the Kings hope they have made some strides to reach the second season.
The Kings have a solid nucleus on offense in Anze Kopitar, Alex Frolov and Dustin Brown. Frolov had a club-best 32 goals last year, Kopitar topped the team with 39 assists and 66 points, while Brown was solid with 24 goals and 29 assists.
Los Angeles made sure to get its stars some help as well. The Kings acquired Justin Williams late last season, though he was limited due to injuries. The club hopes a healthy Williams plus the addition of Ryan Smyth (26 goals, 33 assists) via a trade with Colorado will balance the scoring.
A young blueline that features Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty also got some veteran help when the Kings signed Rob Scuderi, who is fresh off a Stanley Cup title with Pittsburgh.
Jonathan Quick opens the season as Los Angeles' No. 1 netminder. He went 21-18-2 with a 2.48 goals against average as a rookie last year and will start over Erik Ersberg.
The Coyotes, meanwhile, finally put behind them an offseason that was dominated by talks of sale and relocation. The sale of the team became messy and went all the way to U.S. Bankruptcy Court, with a recent ruling rejecting both the NHL's and Jim Balsillie's bid to buy the team.
Balsillie's sale has been fought because of his desire to move the club to Hamilton, Ontario.
Though the NHL might feel it won a victory over Balsillie, it was the Coyotes who suffered the biggest casualty. Head coach and director of hockey operations Wayne Gretzky resigned a week before the start of the season due to the drawn-out sale.
He was replaced by Dave Tippett, who takes over a club that lost two of its three top scorers from a year ago. Though Shane Doan and his team-best 31 goals, 42 assists and 73 points return, Olli Jokinen and Steve Reinprecht do not.
Instead, the Coyotes will count on youngsters Martin Hanzal and Peter Mueller to take the next step, while full seasons from Matthew Lombardi and Scottie Upshall, who were both acquired in trades last year, will help.
Phoenix also reacquired forward Radim Vrbata and adder defenders Adrian Aucoin and Jim Vandermeer to a blueline led by Ed Jovanovski and Kurt Sauer.
The Coyotes also hope for more consistency from netminder Ilya Bryzgalov, who was 26-31-6 with a 2.98 GAA last year.
Phoenix won four of six versus the Kings last year and has won 10 of the last 14 meetings between the clubs overall. That includes a victory in five of seven at Los Angeles.
10/03 11:22:34 ET