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Kings, Rangers get season started in Stockholm

by Dan Rosen
RANGERS (0-0-0) at KINGS (0-0-0)

2011 Compuware NHL Premiere in Stockholm, Sweden


Season Series:
This is the only meeting between the teams this season.

Big Story: It's the season-opener for both teams, so that's big enough. Now toss in the fact that they're playing it in Sweden, which is six time zones away from home for the Rangers and nine time zones away for the Kings, and the magnitude of the game grows. Let's also not forget that it is the regular-season debut for Mike Richards in a Kings uniform and Brad Richards in a Rangers uniform.

Team Scope:

Kings: Drew Doughty is here and ready to go in the Kings' season opener. That was very much in doubt only a week ago. Doughty didn't sign his new contract with the Kings until right before they left for Europe. The only preseason action he saw was in their 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere Challenge game against the Hamburg Freezers.

"The exhibition game was huge for me to get up with the speed and make sure I was passing to the guys the way I was used to," Doughty said. "Most importantly the practices have been really important to make sure I was back with the right systems and developing the habits with the guys. I feel well-conditioned and well-prepared, and I have no excuses."

The Kings will go with Jonathan Quick in net against the Rangers. Quick won 35 games last season, including six shutouts, and posted a 2.24 goals-against average.

With Dustin Penner unable to play due to an undisclosed injury, Brad Richardson will move into a top-six role and play with Mike Richards and Dustin Brown. Simon Gagne will bump up to play with Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams.

Rangers: The Rangers are missing No. 1 defenseman Marc Staal. He's back in New York trying to overcome headaches that are a result of post-concussion symptoms. Without Staal, there are some massive changes on defense. Dan Girardi becomes their No. 1, Ryan McDonagh moves into a top pair role, Michael Del Zotto has to play top-four minutes and Tim Erixon could be making his NHL debut. Erixon was cut Saturday and left Europe to go to Hartford. He returned Wednesday night after being recalled.

Brandon Dubinsky will start as the left wing with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik. John Tortorella hopes it works because he realizes to create his top line he is borrowing from what he believes is a strong second line. Ruslan Fedotenko will take over as the second-line left wing next to Artem Anisimov and Ryan Callahan.

"I am robbing Peter to pay Paul there," Tortorella said. "If someone steps up to do that job on the left wing other than Dubi it gives us more balance, so I'm still striving for that but we'll start the game this way."

Who's Hot: Brad Richards had 77 points in 72 games with Dallas last season. He will play in all situations for the Rangers and hopes to build on those totals in the first year of his nine-year contract. … Mike Richards is hoping a reunion with L.A. assistant coach John Stevens, his former head coach in Philadelphia, will springboard his offense. Richards had 80 points under Stevens in 2008-09.

Injury Report: Penner is out with an undisclosed injury. … Staal is not here due to post-concussion symptoms. Mike Rupp sat out Thursday's practice with a sore knee, but Tortorella said he will play.

Stat Pack: Teams that have opened in Europe have gone on to win the Stanley Cup in three consecutive seasons (Pittsburgh in 2008-09, Chicago in 2009-10, and Boston in 2010-11).

Puck Drop:
"I'm not sure if it's nerves; it's anticipation," Tortorella said. "Camp is long. It's long for the players, it's long for the coaches. I'm anxious to see us play. If you don't have any type of anxiousness or nervousness before a game, any game, you're not ready. So, yeah, I'm geared up right now."

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