| Dustin Brown, the Kings youngest captain in Team History, an example of the youth on display as these two rising young teams clash today.
Youth will be served when the red-hot New York Rangers play host to the surging Los Angeles Kings at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET.
Today, Dan Girardi (25), Matt Gilroy (25), Marc Staal (22) and Michael Del Zotto (19) are the new wave of NHL defenders to hit Broadway. The Rangers' average age along the blue line on opening night was 25 years, 243 days -- the fourth youngest defense corps in the NHL. Atlanta had the youngest (25 years 104 days) followed by Nashville (25 years, 183 days) and Tampa Bay (25 years, 219 days). Los Angeles (25 years, 274 days) was fifth.
In fact, the last time the Rangers had four defensemen manning their blue line aged 25-or-younger was 29 years ago when Dave Maloney (24), Andre Dore (22), Mario Marois (22) and Ed Hospodar (21) were the headliners.
New York's current foursome hasn't disappointed, combining for 6 goals, 12 points and a plus-14 rating. The Rangers (5-1-0) currently sit atop the Eastern Conference and coach John Tortorella has his troops brimming with confidence behind a five-game winning streak. The club is also unbeaten at home (3-0-0), but New York hasn't defeated the Kings at MSG since 2000.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist is 4-1-0 with a 2.42 goals-against average and .919 save percentage this season but has a career 0-2-0 ledger with a 4.03 GAA in two games against the Kings. Backup Steve Valiquette posted a 3-0 shutout over Anaheim on Sunday in his only appearance of the 2009-10 campaign.
The Kings, meanwhile, who average 26.1 years of age, have one of the youngest clubs in the League with captain Dustin Brown
(24), alternate captain Anze Kopitar
(22), forward Teddy Purcell (24) and defensemen Drew Doughty
(19) and Jack Johnson (22) and goalie Jonathan Quick
(23) leaded the way.
"I think the whole team is really tight and we get along great," Kopitar told NHL.com. "Right now the locker room is one of the best places to be, that's for sure. It's definitely a different feeling than when I first got here (in 2006-07). There were more older guys with some young guys, but now it's more young guys with some older guys and that makes it different for sure."
Los Angeles (4-1-0), which enters MSG riding a four-game winning streak, is third in the Western Conference and unbeaten (2-0-0) on the road. The club's top line of Ryan Smyth, Kopitar and Justin Williams
has produced 9 goals and 23 points while sophomore Doughty (2 goals, 6 points) has done his part on the back end.
Goalie Jonathan Quick
, who has stopped 83 of the last 88 shots he's faced, isn't expected to get the start on Wednesday against the Rangers. Instead, Erik Ersberg is scheduled to make his debut for the Kings and Quick will likely get the nod Thursday in Detroit.
Ersberg will be tested early and often, however, as the Rangers have received solid play from their top line with newcomers Marian Gaborik and Vinny Prospal, along with center Brandon Dubinsky. Gaborik (5 goals, 4 assists, team-leading 9 points) has started his Rangers' career with a six-game point streak and New York's power-play, which went 2-for-6 in a victory over Toronto on Monday, has registered 7 goals on their last 20 opportunities (35 percent). New York currently ranks 14th in the NHL with a 22.6 percent success rate with the man advantage (7-for-31).
Prospal, who needs just one goal to obtain 200 for his career, is second on the team in scoring with 7 points, including 6 assists, and Dubinsky is third with 6 points (4 assists).
Tortorella also had Sean Avery (2 goals, 3 points), Artem Anisimov (4 points) and Enver Lisin (3 points) together as a third unit against the Maple Leafs on Monday and that trio keyed a four-goal uprising in the third period.
"We have a certain game plan and a certain way we have to play and if one guy doesn't play that way, that's what leads to holes for the other team to capitalize on," Avery said. "We have a lot of guys who can skate and a lot of guys who fit into the system."
Certainly not forgotten in all this is 24-year-old Rangers forward Brian Boyle, who'll have a chance to skate against the team that drafted him 26th overall in 2003. Despite the fact he has yet to register a point in six games with the Rangers this season, Tortorella likes what he sees.
"He came into camp in good shape and I think that has helped him and I think he's been harder this season," the coach said. "You have to have that mental frame of mind and he's harder on the puck, taking hits to make a play and is more consistent closing in on people, so he's been solid."
The 6-foot-7 center, who is coming off a season-high 11:26 of ice time against the Maple Leafs, was acquired by the Rangers in a draft-day trade last June. He's looking forward to catching up with his old teammates -- Boyle posted 8 goals in 36 games with the Kings the past two seasons.
"I still have a lot of friends over there, but they won't be friends (Wednesday night), for sure," said Boyle. "I want to go out and do well for this club first and foremost, for the Rangers. That's my main focus, doing well for us, and contribute to a win for us."Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer