FINALLY hockey's back. Not those other, inferior teams, but a real team is playing tonight. The Kings! You know, those lovable rascals. They're squaring off against the Vancouver Canucks, the team that bounced them from the playoffs just last season. The Kings responded by poaching Vancouver's best defensive defenseman, Willie Mitchell, while the Canucks went out and attained two solid blueliners, Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhuis. Should be a wild night.
The key match-up in tonight's game will be the battle between the top lines. In the playoffs the Kings didn't have an answer for the Sedin brothers, Henrik and Daniel. Of course, last season the Kings' top line featured an injured Ryan Smyth and a Justin Williams that was coming off a broken leg. To start the season Ryan Smyth is healthy and now Dustin Brown is alongside Anze Kopitar's right side. The Sedins, meanwhile, are missing their old running mate, Alexandre Burrows, and have replaced him with Mikael Samuelsson. Whoever wins the match-up between the Sedin line and the Kopitar line will likely win the game.
The other key to the game will be how the Kings utilize their defensive core. The Kings are rolling with these pairings to start the season:
Mitchell - Drew Doughty
The top 4 is very good but that bottom pairing is rather young and untested. I expect the Kings' top 2 pairings to each play over 20 minutes tonight, with the bottom 2 players getting spot duty. It's not a viable long-term strategy but I expect it to last until defenseman Matt Greene comes back from his shoulder injury.
Watch the game tonight. It's at 7:00. It'll be fun: there'll be a few fights, a few goals, someone's going to get their head knocked silly... you know, good, clean fun.