LA Kings off to a good start despite loss to Wings and 2005-2006 Preview

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Very few local sporting events can create the same level of electricity as a Los Angeles Kings game when they are playing the Detroit Red Wings at Staple Center. Last Thursday night’s game was no exception.
From the opening face-off, the crowd was a factor. And for three periods of play, they were treated to the fast-paced, smash-mouth hockey to which Kings fans are rapidly growing accustomed. The Red Wings opened the scoring with the only goal of the 1st period when Brendan Shanahan snapped a wrist shot past King goaltender Mathieu Garon. The puck had been inadvertently redirected by King defenseman and captain Mattias Norstrom right onto Shanahan’s stick who happened to be in right place at the right time.
The Kings evened the score in the 2nd period on Sean Avery’s second goal of the year, beating Wing’s goalie and former King Manny Legace on the play. Derek Armstrong and Tim Gleason were credited with the assists, with Gleason continuing his impressive play at both ends of the ice.
The Red Wings took the lead back early in the 3rd period, scoring on a short-handed goal by veteran Kirk Maltby, his first point of the season. Maltby, after intercepting an ill-advised pass from King defenseman Joe Corvo, skated in alone and beat Garon to the stick side which, at the time, appeared to knock the air out of the sails of the Kings faithful.
The Kings, however, continued to skate hard and show the resiliency of a good hockey team. And with just over five minutes left in the 3rd period, they were rewarded for their efforts when newly acquired King center Jeremy Roenick rammed home a pass from teammate Dustin Brown directly in front of the Red Wing’s crease. Brown, who is clearly establishing himself as one of the team leaders, had another strong game. His hustle and aggressive style elicited a roar from the crowd earlier in the game when he leveled the Wings’ premier defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom with a clean check.


The Wings struck back less than a minute later with what proved to be the game winner when rookie center Johan Franzen threw a floater past Garon to record his first NHL goal. Garon appeared to be fooled by the speed and angle of the shot, and would have undoubtedly liked a another opportunity to make that save. The large Detroit fan contingent celebrated the goal as if they knew it was the knockout punch they were waiting for.
Two empty-net goals in the final 48 seconds gave the appearance of a one-sided game. But the Kings players and their fans know otherwise. With a few better bounces, the outcome might have been very different.

The game also marked the return of Red Wings captain and fan favorite Steve Yzerman, after missing the first four games of the season due to a groin injury. The two teams will square off again at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit on November 9th. 

New comer Jeremy Roenick (pictured here) has been a big influence and team leader besides great success he has had in the past.  I talked to him after the game and he was very disappointed about the outcome but remained optimistic regarding the team this year.  He said the breaks didn’t go their way tonight but they held their own versus one of the leagues elite teams.  Jeremy is well known for many antics and being very outgoing and friendly with the media.  I could tell how intense he is and how much he wants to win by his down demeaner after the loss.  This guy is a true champ and the Kings are happy about that as well.

The Kings have some solid players returning from the 03-04 season including all star defensman, Mattias Nordstrom, who Roenick calls the most underrated player in the league.  Alexander Frolov was the Kings leading scorer.  Aaron Miller is tough on defense.  Up and coming forwards Michael Cammalleri, Eric Belanger, Derek Armstrong, and Dustin Brown have looked really good so far.  I interviewed Brown after the game and asked him his views.  He thought the Kings dominated the game and have a lot of confidence going forward.  He played at Manchester last year and has improved so much he is being considered for a spot on the next USA Olympic team in 2006 when the NHL will take a break from play from February 13-27 for the Winter Games in Torino, Italy.  Brown, pictured below, was more easy going about the loss not taking it too serious this early in the season.  He is another great guy in the clubhouse and a hard-nosed worker.

Other notables include new players such as Craig Conroy, Pavol Demitra, tough guys Sean Avery and George Parros, goalies Matthieu Garon & Jason Labarbera, and of course longtime favorite Luc Robitaille compete for coach Andy Murray.