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Storylines Abound in Preseason

by Thomas LaRocca / Los Angeles Kings
Ryan Smyth will make his Kings "debut" at some point this preseason.

Kings fans will get their first chance to see the new and improved Crownshirts in just 69 days as the Kings open their preseason slate.

Los Angeles will kick off its preseason slate with a pair of games on Sept. 15 vs. the Coyotes, playing at Arena at 7 p.m. and at STAPLES Center at 7:30 p.m. Though the concept is much more prevalent in Major League Baseball, the Kings first attempted this tactic last season, playing Phoenix at STAPLES on Sept. 22, 2008 and christening the new Sprint Center in Kansas City earlier that night.

The two-game strategy was successful with the Kings winning both games and allowing 42 players and prospects to log game action under the watchful eye of Kings management. In fact, in the 2-1 win over St. Louis, Wayne Simmonds continued to open the eyes of GM Dean Lombardi, head coach Terry Murray and company, continuing his strong camp that ended up earning the young winger a spot on the squad. Davis Drewiske also had a strong game and would later log 17 games with the Kings. Also in the contest, Kings prospect Dwight King and Blues prospect DJ King faced each other in the always interesting brother-brother match up.

Meanwhile back at STAPLES Center, Oscar Moller stole the show with a three-point night (1-2=3) en route to also cracking the Kings roster.

Though the two games did allow for more opportunity - in which Moller, Simmonds, Drew Doughty and Drewiske obviously took full advantage of - Murray last year spoke of the challenge that the concept presents:

"Ideally I'd like to have two games on two separate days so I can be at both of those games and be able to coach both, but it is kind of a unique situation," Murray said. "We have a lot of players at training camp and it creates opportunity. The young guys get into the first exhibition games after a week of training camp and rookie camp and we can evaluate what they have learned so far."

This season, both games will be against the Coyotes and will not only help the hockey operations department evaluate their young talent, it could really help the process of deciding the Kings final roster, which as of now, has a few openings.

On defense, the Kings will boast a strong corps. of Doughty, Matt Greene, Sean O'Donnell and free-agent acquisition Rob Scuderi, with Jack Johnson as a top-two blue-liner, when a deal between he and the Kings is reached. That leaves one, maybe two, spots up for grabs with Davis Drewiske and super-utility guy Peter Harrold in the mix, trying to fight off youngsters Thomas Hickey, Alec Martinez, Colten Teubert and Viatcheslav Voynov, amongst others, assuming their are no more transactions prior to the start of training camp.

On offense, the top six of Dustin Brown, Alexander Frolov, Anze Kopitar, Ryan Smyth, Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams appears to be set. Simmonds and Michal Handzus had such great chemistry last year and appear to be in place on the third line with Raitis Ivanans/Kevin Westgarth providing the muscle on the fourth line. Oscar Moller and Teddy Purcell, two offensive-minded forwards who played a majority of the season with the Kings last year, will certainly be in the mix, as will super-energy guys Brad Richardson and John Zeiler. That leaves maybe one or two openings for prospects such as Marc-Andre Cliche, Rich Clune, Bud Holloway, Trevor Lewis, David Meckler, Scott Parse and 2009 first round pick Brayden Schenn, amongst others, to use these games to make an impression that could land them on the 2009-10 roster.

The Kings will play their third preseason game on Sept. 17, in a special game in Ontario vs. the San Jose Sharks, last year's President Trophy winner. It will be Kings fans' chance for an up-close and personal view of their favorite team in the 9,736-seat Citizen's Business Bank Arena in Ontario, home of the Ontario Reign, the Kings ECHL affiliate. Last season, Kings prospects Jeff Zatkoff and Bud Holloway played most of the season with the Reign, while Teubert played a handful of games with the team at the end of the season.

Two days later, the Kings play their last preseason game at STAPLES Center, hosting their Southern California rival Anaheim Ducks. In 2008-09, the Kings won the season series and clinched the rivalry known as the Freeway Faceoff, getting a $50,000 donation from the Ducks for Kings Care, with a 3-2-1 mark.

On Sept. 22, the Kings could possibly get their first look at John Tavares, the No. 1 draft pick in 2009, when they face the New York Islanders in a game at Kansas City. An interesting side story will be the fact that the Westgarth brothers, Kevin, the Kings enforcer forward and Brett, the Islanders bruising defensive prospect, could face each other.

  More on the Westgarth Brothers

The Kings have played five games in Kansas City, four during the regular season against the artist formerly known as the Kansas City Scouts and last year's preseason contest vs. the Blues, a 2-1 Kings win.

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Sept. 22, 2008

The next night the Kings will face the Avalanche in Denver as Ryan Smyth may get a chance to play against his former team, but according to published reports, the Avs will not have the services of Joe Sakic, who is expected to announce his retirement.

The Kings then will face the Avalanche again at the MGM Grand, in the annual Frozen Fury game on Sept. 26. The Kings are 8-2-2 all-time in the event since the inaugural game on Sept. 20, 1997, a 4-3 Kings win over the Avalanche.

The Kings will then close out the preseason slate the next night at Anaheim vs. the Ducks...that's eight games in 12 days as the Kings prepare for the highly anticipated 2009-10 season....and the fun starts in just 69 days.

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