The Kings will host the team that some people refer to as the New York Yankees of hockey, the Toronto Maple Leafs, one of hockey’s most storied franchises.
“It is an Original Six team,” Kings defenseman Tom Preissing, who routinely faced Toronto as a member of the Ottawa Senators, said. “Canada is pretty much the birthplace of hockey and that is the biggest city in Canada. All of the tradition and history that the Leafs have is unbelievable.
“I don’t know how many Cups they have won, but I am guessing they are second to Montreal.”
Well Tom, the answer is 11.
(1931–32, 1941–42, 1944–45, 1946–47, 1947–48, 1948–49, 1950–51, 1961–62, 1962–63, 1963–64, 1966–67, for all you stat geeks out there.)
They might have had a chance to play for No. 12 back in 1993, but the Kings dispatched of Toronto in seven games, in a dramatic playoff series that will live in Kings lore forever. The Leafs led the series 3-2, but dropped Game 6 in Los Angeles and Gretzky's hat trick in Game 7 finished the Leafs' run, and it was the Kings that moved on to the Cup Finals against the Canadiens much to the chagrin of Leafs’ nation.
Overall the Kings are 57-55-22 all-time vs. Toronto (4-3 in the playoffs) and are 34-21-10 all-time at home, most of which took place at the Forum, as Toronto has not visited Los Angeles since Nov. 13, 2003, their only visit to STAPLES Center ever.
The last time the Kings and Leafs played, Alexander Frolov tallied two goals and added an assist, Luc Robitialle added a goal and an assist and the Kings jumped out to a 4-1 lead. Toronto, however, scored three times in the third period to tie the score at four. No goals were scored in the extra frame, ending in a 4-4 tie.
“I think it is important that teams from the East come out here,” Kings Alternate captain Scott Thornton, who was selected by Toronto in the first round (3rd overall) in the 1989 Entry Draft, said. “Toronto is one of the Original Six teams and they have a lot of fans all over North America. I expect there to be a lot of Toronto fans here.”
“It will be great for our fans to see some of the faces of that organization.”
Thornton of course, used to be one of those faces, playing one season in Toronto in the old Maple Leafs Garden (home to the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1931-1999), scoring 1-3=4 with 30 PIM in 33 games before being dealt to Edmonton in a blockbuster, six-player trade that included players such as Vincent Damphousse, Luke Richardson, Grant Fuhr and Glen Anderson.
Kings goaltender J-S. Aubin also called Toronto home for two seasons 2005-07.
“It was a great experience, a great challenge,” Aubin said. “It is a great town to play hockey in, you are rewarded for success and heavily criticized when you are not successful.”
Aubin had a taste of both in Toronto.
As the Leafs’ third string goaltender in 2005-06, Aubin went on 9-0-2 run – the best of his career - with a 2.22 GAA in 11 games to nearly lead the Leafs back to the playoffs. His final season in a Maple Leafs sweater, Aubin tallied a 3-5-2 mark with a 3.43 GAA.
The Kings signed him as an unrestricted free agent this past summer and tonight he and the Kings (15-27-2) will host the Maple Leafs (16-19-8), with each team in need of a win.
“We are not worried about anyone other than ourselves right now,” Head coach Marc Crawford said. “We are playing every opponent like they are the best team, the World Championship team and that is how we are going to prepare to play.”