The Los Angeles Kings opened training camp yesterday, the start of a grueling ten-month season in which they look to defend their second Stanley Cup title in two seasons. With the vast majority of their roster returning the Kings will be looking to accomplish something that’s hasn’t been done in the NHL in over fifteen years—win back to back Stanley Cups. The last club to accomplish the feat was the Detroit Red Wings in 1997-1998.
The Kings will have a big target on their backs, with several of the other Western Conference contenders, including the Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche making offseason moves intended to upgrade the roster. Due to wise cap management by General Manager Dean Lombardi, the Kings didn’t face the typical post-championship exodus that many teams deal with. In addition to keeping the core of the roster the Kings were able to lock up Marian Gaborik on a longer-term deal. The fleet forward was a major part of the Kings offensive surge in the postseason, and should be a major component of their offensive attack during the upcoming season.
Goaltender Jonathan Quick, such a vital part of both of the Stanley Cup winning teams, will miss the beginning of training camp after wrist surgery. Kyle Clifford and Jarrett Stoll will join Quick on the sidelines in the early part of training camp. After a weekend of practice the Kings will kick off the exhibition season on Monday night when a split squad takes on the Arizona Coyotes. The first exhibition game will take place just sixteen days before the Kings kick off the regular season when they face the San Jose Sharks on October 8.
So can they repeat?
Los Angeles had an immensely grueling playoff run a year ago, going a perfect 8-0 in postseason elimination games, including defeating the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks in seven game series. In their two title runs the veteran Kings roster has developed a reputation for performing in the clutch, a key component of last year’s title which includes coming back to defeat the San Jose Sharks after falling behind by three games in the series.A return to normalcy should benefit the Kings, provided they can stay healthy. Two seasons ago the NHL played a shortened season due to the lockout. Last year the Kings dealt with Jonathan Quick missing nearly two months of the season due to a groin injury, and the Sochi Olympic break. The big question is whether or not the Kings can finish in the top half of the Western Conference. In both title winning seasons the Kings finished in the back half of the conference, 8th and 6th in the respective seasons. Without home ice advantage they’ve still managed to make title runs due to their veteran grit and ability to win on the road. If the Kings can get off to a fast start and stay healthy, they may have the luxury of defending the Stanley Cup with home ice advantage this season.
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