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Kings, Avalanche renew acquaintences in Vegas

by Mike G. Morreale
Is there anything better than a little NHL hockey in the middle of the desert?

We'll certainly find out Saturday at 10 p.m. ET at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas when the host Los Angeles Kings and Colorado Avalanche face off in Frozen Fury 11.

"I think it's a big game for the fans because it's just a fun time out in Vegas, and when do you get to see a hockey game that's sold out in that area," said Luc Robitaille, the former Kings player and current team president of business operations. "The fans talk about this game from the minute the preseason schedule is announced. The only few seats that might not be occupied are those in the obstructed view section of the arena. It's a pretty emotional game because the fans are so into it, the players really dig deep as well."

The game has become an annual preseason ritual between the two residents of the Western Conference. The Kings have won six of the previous nine meetings between the teams, including a 3-2 shootout decision last year when Slovenian sensation Anze Kopitar had a goal and an assist. Kopitar's linemate, the hard-hitting Dustin Brown, also scored and would score the game-winning goal in the shootout as the Kings overcame 1-0 and 2-1 deficits before securing its second straight Frozen Fury crown.

Incredibly, eight of the games against the Avs have been decided by one goal. Most recently, the Avs earned a 2-1 overtime victory in 2005 when Steve Konowalchuk beat Kings goalie Jason LaBarbera 57 seconds into the extra session to snap a 1-1 tie. In 2006, rookie Patrick O'Sullivan connected with 52 seconds remaining to put the finishing touches on a three-goal third period.

Robitaille will never forget the contests in 1991 or 2005.

"In '91 (the first ever NHL exhibition game held outdoors), we played on the ice at Caesars Palace and it became so hot, grasshoppers started jumping onto the ice; it was ridiculous," he said. "But I think the most memorable game for me was the match in 2005. At the time, Jeremy Roenick was playing for (the Kings) and there happened to be a break in the action in order for the maintenance crew to fix a broken pane of glass.

"Well, this crazy music starts to play and out comes J.R. (Roenick) strutting his stuff and putting on these dance moves. It was hilarious. It got to a point where J.R. skated out to center ice and was imitating Michael Jackson, doing the splits and the moonwalk," Robitaille said. "The crowd was going nuts."

Robitaille and his wife, Stacia, also use the weekend event to assist their non-profit charity, Echoes of Hope, which provides support for rehabilitating the lives of families crippled by devastating losses. This year, the Luc Robitaille Celebrity Poker Tournament, which will be held Friday at the MGM Grand, will help raise money for the charity.

Saturday's game will the second between the clubs in four days. On Wednesday, Ted Purcell, who was signed to a free-agent contract in 2007, scored the only goal in a shootout to give the Kings a 4-3 victory. Purcell received his opportunity after teammates Kopitar and Brown missed on Colorado goalie Jason Bacashihua. Colorado forwards Darcy Tucker, Joe Sakic and Ryan Smyth were each denied by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick.

"I've been very impressed with some of the younger players we have in this organization," Kings coach Terry Murray told the L.A. Times. "They deserve more games and we'll continue to watch these young guys as they move through the training camp."

Contact Mike Morreale at

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