Tonight the Kings face off against the Minnesota Wild. The question is, which Kings team will step on the ice?
Will it be the frightened and disorganized group of headless turkeys we saw against Phoenix, or will it be the tenacious and confident hockey team we saw against San Jose?
My guess is, somewhere in between.
Minnesota should prove to be a better test of where the Kings stand. Fresh off a come-back overtime victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday, the Wild are one of the fringe teams that the Kings will likely be battling with all season long to secure a playoff berth. The Wild come in to town with a roster that is largely the same, but a front office that is vastly different.
Over the summer, Minnesota hired a new coach, Todd Richards, only their second head coach in franchise history. General Manager Doug Risebrough was also replaced by Chuck Fletcher. Along with new wingers Martin Havlat and Petr Sykora, the Wild look to rid themselves of the reputation of dull defensive trap play that has become synonymous with Minnesota hockey. If anything, this shift in philosophy should make for a few less boring games at Staples.
On the Kings side of things, Peter Harrold will remain in the line-up, but will shift to forward, replacing Trevor Lewis on the 4th line right wing to make room on defense for the return of Sean O’Donnell. The wily veteran rejoins the Kings after sitting out the last three games of the preseason and first two of the regular season for acquainting Islander Matt Martin’s face with the ice surface.
No one will be happier to see O’Donnell on the ice than sophomore Drew Doughty, who regains his defense partner and mentor. It will be interesting to see if Davis Drewiske will replace Harrold as Jack Johnson’s partner, or if Johnson will be reunited with Rob Scuderi, assuming he’s managed to dislodge the cotton from his nose. If there is a persistent whistle throughout the game tonight, you’ll know who it is coming from.
With any luck, the steady O’Donnell will help to calm the Kings’ penalty kill, which is off to pitiful start. What he will have no effect on is the powerplay, which has been magnificent. The Kings are scoring at 50% on the powerplay, while their success on the PK is at 28.6% in the young season.
If the Kings can keep their heads up and their passes short and crisp, they should walk away from the rink with two points. After the game, the Kings embark on their first road trip of the season, a lengthy 6 game excursion that has them playing the Blues, Islanders, Rangers, Red Wings, Blue Jackets and Stars over 10 days before they return to Staples on Thursday, October 22.
Go Kings Go!