The Kings and Rangers haven’t met since New York was the opponent two seasons ago in Los Angeles’ home opener.
The Kings’ home opener in 2013-14 will be Monday night against the Rangers, who expect right wing Ryan Callahan to make his season debut.
The next five games for Los Angeles (1-1-0) are against Eastern Conference teams, and coach Darryl Sutter said that he and his players are learning about the unfamiliar foes.
“Yeah, it’s fun…(We) play (the Rangers Monday), play Ottawa, Carolina, Tampa, Florida,” Sutter told the Kings’ official website. “That’s five teams in your first eight games we haven’t seen. Even with the players, cause they’re asking questions about guys they haven’t seen, or don’t know players, or guys looking at stuff.”
The Kings began their Stanley Cup-winning campaign two seasons ago with a 3-2 overtime win over New York.
Callahan scored the Rangers’ first goal of that contest, and first-year coach Alain Vigneault believes he will have his captain back on the ice. The forward missed New York’s 4-1 loss Thursday at Phoenix after offseason shoulder surgery.
“This gives him an extra almost four days, two days of contacts in practices,” Vigneault said. “He’s ready to go, he’s cleared to play, it’s time to go.”
Vigneault said he will start Callahan on the Rangers’ third line, and the coach is more concerned about a penalty kill that allowed the Coyotes to convert one of three chances. He believes that unit needs to block more shots.
“There’s not one of 30 teams in the NHL that can play a game without defending extremely well,” Vigneault said. “Part of defending extremely well is your one-on-one battles, your stick on stick and also part of that is blocking shots. Players have to get in lanes and you have to be in those lanes and if the puck happens to hit you, it hits you.”
The penalty kill could be in the spotlight Monday since Los Angeles is 3 for 8 on the power play.
“Once we get in the zone, we’ve moved the puck pretty good - creating chances, getting some high shots,” center Anze Kopitar said.
The Kings are back home after winning 3-2 in a shootout over Minnesota on Thursday before falling 5-3 at Winnipeg the next night.
Jonathan Quick started both games although he was replaced early in the third period against the Jets. He faced an average of 28.0 shots after the Kings limited opponents to 25.0 a season ago for the NHL’s third-best mark.
“We haven’t given up five goals too often,” right wing Dustin Brown said. “I think that was uncharacteristic of our team, but again, I think that’s how we play, is limiting the scoring chances against.”
The Rangers are looking for offense from Rick Nash, who scored once in 12 playoff games for New York (0-1-0) last season. Nash, who assisted on Marc Staal’s goal in the opener, has not scored in his last five games versus the Kings.
“His work ethic and his attitude are real good and he’s trying hard, and he’s like the rest of our team, he’s going to put it together,” Vigneault said.
The Kings haven’t lost a home game in regulation against the Rangers since Dec. 29, 2001, going 3-0-2 in the past five meetings there.