The Los Angeles Kings have been looking up at the Vegas Golden Knights ever since the latter joined the NHL as an expansion team four years ago.
The Kings hope to start making up ground when they host the Golden Knights in the Kings’ season opener Thursday night in Los Angeles.
Vegas reached the Stanley Cup Finals in its inaugural season of 2017-18 after sweeping the Kings in the first round. The Golden Knights qualified for the postseason each of the next three seasons as well.
The Kings haven’t returned to the playoffs since getting swept by Vegas, making their two Stanley Cup title runs in 2012 and 2014 seem like a distant memory.
“We have a tough matchup right off the bat against Vegas,” said Los Angeles veteran defenseman Drew Doughty. “We’ve got to get a win there and get ourselves feeling good about where the team is going.”
Vegas made its season debut on Tuesday against the visiting Seattle Kraken, the newest NHL expansion team.
The Golden Knights won 4-3.
“Nice to start with a win and get that momentum going,” Vegas goalie Robin Lehner said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
The Golden Knights scored on two of their first three shots against Seattle and built a 3-0 lead before needing a tie-breaking goal by Chandler Stephenson at 8:33 of the third period to escape with the win.
Stephenson’s linemates also got off to excellent starts.
Max Pacioretty had two goals and an assist, and Mark Stone contributed three assists.
“Not a lot I need to do other than skate when playing with these two,” Stephenson said of Pacioretty and Stone. “Nice to play with two All-Stars in my mind. Their names speak for themselves.”
There’s a possibility the Golden Knights could get forwards Mattias Janmark and William Carrier back against the Kings after both missed the season opener. Janmark is in COVID-19 protocol and Carrier is in concussion protocol.
Doughty and forwards Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown are the lone remaining Kings from their Stanley Cup championship teams.
Kopitar led Los Angeles with 37 assists and 50 points last season, Doughty was second with 26 assists and 34 points, and Brown led the Kings in goals with 17.
Doughty said the trio needs to continue providing the same leadership, on and off the ice.
“I don’t think our roles change too much,” Doughty said. “We’re expected to be at the top of our positions every night, and we expect ourselves to be that, too.”
Doughty said the Kings need to improve on their power play, which finished 19th out of 31 teams after they were ranked as high as eighth near the halfway point of the season.
The power play helped the Kings get off to a decent start last season, going 12-10-6 through the first 28 games, but fading to 9-18-1 over the last 28.
“We want to get the power play rolling like it was at the beginning of last season,” Doughty said. “We gave up way too many goals at the end of last season, and we’ve got to fix that. Really, improving in all areas, have everyone feeling good and get a little bit of a roll going.”
Kings forward Lias Andersson did not practice Wednesday and remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Arthur Kaliyev would replace Andersson in the lineup.
–Field Level Media