The New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings have not played each another since the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, and with the Rangers visiting Staples Center on Thursday seeking to avenge June's 4-1 series loss, they do so as the hottest team in the NHL.
New York defeated the Anaheim Ducks 4-1 on Wednesday to open up a three-game road trip. It was the Rangers' third straight win and 11th victory in their past 12 games.
"We've talked about it for the last couple of days," said Rangers forward Rick Nash, who scored the game-winner against Anaheim, after the game. "We've been talking about challenging ourselves and kind of getting a good measuring stick of where we're at. It's a huge win for us."
The Kings have not played since Saturday, when they erased a three-goal deficit in the final 2:01 of regulation against the Nashville Predators before losing 7-6 in overtime. Jonathan Quick was pulled for Martin Jones after allowing three goals on the first nine shots of regulation. Quick was the first goalie off the ice Thursday and is expected to start.
The Kings, who have won the Stanley Cup in two of the past three seasons, aren't getting caught up in a rematch against the Rangers.
"I think that's more of a story for the media," said defenseman Alec Martinez, who scored the series-clinching, overtime goal in Game 5 of the 2014 Final, according to LA Kings Insider. "We approach this game just like we do every other game."
Likewise, the Rangers, playing their most consistent hockey of the season, are hoping to recapture some of the success that led to their deep postseason run, but need to focus on the present.
"When we play the Kings, for sure, it's going to bring up some memories and hopefully we can take those as motivation -- some good memories and bad memories," center Derick Brassard said after practice in Anaheim on Tuesday, according to the New York Daily News. "There are good memories because we were playing hockey very late last year at a time when every hockey player in the world wants to play. So we were pretty lucky to play in that situation. … But I think we learned from that, and we can take it as motivation."
Here are the projected lineups:
Rick Nash – Derick Brassard – Mats Zuccarello
Chris Kreider – Derek Stepan – Martin St. Louis
Carl Hagelin – Kevin Hayes – Jesper Fast
J.T. Miller – Dominic Moore – Lee Stempniak
Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Marc Staal – Dan Boyle
John Moore – Kevin Klein
Scratched: Matt Hunwick, Tanner Glass
Marian Gaborik – Anze Kopitar – Dwight King
Tanner Pearson – Jeff Carter – Tyler Toffoli
Dustin Brown – Jarret Stoll – Justin Williams
Kyle Clifford – Mike Richards – Trevor Lewis
Jake Muzzin – Drew Doughty
Alec Martinez – Matt Greene
Jeff Schultz – Jamie McBain
Scratched: Jordan Nolan, Andy Andreoff, Brayden McNabb
Suspended: Slava Voynov
Injured: Robyn Regehr (upper body)
Status report: Before the Rangers departed for their road trip, coach Alain Vigneault said Talbot would start against the Kings. … Moore replaced Hunwick in the lineup Wednesday after sitting out as a healthy scratch the previous two games.
Who's hot: Nash scored Wednesday to give him goals in 20 different games this season, the most in the League. His 25 overall are second to Tyler Seguin (26). … Kopitar and Martinez each had three points in the loss against Nashville. Kopitar has 16 points in his past nine games.