LONDON (AP) - If the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings needed another reason to get physical, playing each other in London may be the perfect excuse.
With the NHL making its regular-season debut Saturday and Sunday in the British capital, fans await a firsthand look of one of the league's trademarks - rink-rattling hits and at least a couple of fights.
The Ducks and Kings are more than happy to oblige.
"We're crosstown rivals, and we really don't like each other," Kings coach Marc Crawford said. "Our games are spirited, and I think that's what fans like. ... And our players, you never have to worry about if they're ready for these games."
Ducks winger George Parros, who has never been afraid to drop his gloves on the ice, said he wouldn't be surprised to see a brawl at sold-out O2 Arena this weekend.
"Some guys might get excited, and I'm sure they're looking forward to get a rise out of the crowd," said Parros, who racked up 102 penalty minutes in 34 games last season. "I think, it being the first game of the season. There's going to be some high energy, big hits, and things could get interesting."
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is confident the fans' expectations will be met.
"We're not warranting whether or not there'll be fisticuffs," Bettman said. "But there will be a competition that has all of the intensity and emotion and passion and skill that our game has."
The NHL is taking its season opener to Europe as part of an effort to expand its overseas market. So instead of opening its Stanley Cup defense at home at The Pond, Anaheim had to travel across the pond for the home-and-home series against Los Angeles.
"It's a little bit hard, but we're trying to make the most of it," Ducks captain Chris Pronger said. "Initially we were all kind of upset to come here, we didn't really want to. ... But it's certainly an honor for us to be over here trying to market the game to a new group of fans who hopefully will become die-hard NHL fans."
There's more at stake, though, than just being goodwill ambassadors.
Anaheim is looking to remain a force in the Western Conference while also adjusting to playing without top defenseman Scott Niedermeyer, last season's playoff MVP, and Teemu Selanne. Both have yet to decide whether to return or retire.
"Yeah, we'd like to have Scott Niedermeyer back and yeah, we'd love to have Teeme Selanne back, but that's not reality," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "We have to play the best game of the year for us, in the first game. ... If you want to rest on your laurels, a lot of people are going to be gunning for you."
The team is also missing top goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere, checking forward Samuel Pahlsson and defenseman Mathieu Schneider because of injuries, as it tries to become the first team to repeat as champion since Detroit in 1997-98.
"It's tough. I mean, how many teams have done it?" forward Rob Niedermeyer said. "It's just a hard thing to do. But we're going to try to get off to a good start, and hopefully it'll just come from there."
The Ducks can take comfort in this: The last NHL game in London was a preseason meeting between the New York Rangers and the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1993. The Rangers, led by Mark Messier, went on the lift the Stanley Cup.
The Kings, meanwhile, have their sights set on a playoff spot after finishing 14th out of 15 teams in the Western Conference.
"The goal for the team is to get off to a great start," Crawford said. "We can't afford to even let one game go by experimenting. We're not in the experimental phase here. Our team is a team that's taken a nice step."
And while the team is on unfamiliar ground, Crawford said his players were showing their usual signs of getting ready for the season.
"There's a subtle feeling that comes over a team, and you can see it in the players," he said. There's a little more focus in their eyes, and there's a little bit more energy in practice right now. I felt that today."