The 2011-12 Ranger season starts in Stockholm Friday against the L.A. Kings, 1pm Eastern on MSG or Versus.
Where We Are: Trying to cope with a battered blueline. Top defender Marc Staal is out and top defensive defender Mike Sauer has barely played this preseason thanks to a bum shoulder. The team added Jeff Woywitka on Thursday but it is doubtful he will play so we will be submitted to a defensive corps that includes Michael Del Zotto, rookie Tim Erixon and Steve Eminger. Hank has to be King-ly to survive.
Where They Are: Los Angeles is battling one of the most dangerous of calamities - sky high expectations. After putting together a decent season last year, the Kings stole Mike Richards from the Flyers and added his buddy Simon Gagne. They also re-upped Drew Doughty for eight years so they believe they currently have the pieces for success this season and going forward - now they have to show it.
Who To Watch For: Brad Richardson could come out of nowhere to chip in points as the Rangers fight to contain Justin Williams, Anze Kopitar and the rest of the Kings' jewels. Dustin Brown is Ryan Callahan west. Dustin Penner isn't playing. Jonathan Quick is starting in goal and was utterly fantastic at times last season. Richards, Gagne and former Islander Trent Hunter all know how to beat the Rangers.
What To Watch For: Richards vs. Dubi V - love that these two dislike each other so. Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik being checked very tightly as the Kings shut down the two free agents who spurned them so famously. A Ranger power play is always an experience worth taking in, like a train wreck. See if Zuke can carry his preseason success over, especially when saddled with Wojtek Wolski. How Arty will cope with Torts moving Dubi to the top line and leaving him with Feds instead. Mike Rupp trying to goad Kevin Westgarth into a fight to make an impression on his new teammates (or maybe he will wait for Saturday and take on George Parros' mustache).
What We'll (Hopefully) See: Sean Avery making a grand WWE entrance in the middle of the first and throwing Tortorella against the turnbuckle. Speaking of farcical things, how about MDZ not screwing up anything in his own zone? Dubi destroying Richards yet again. A far, far different team then the one that was smacked by EV Zug earlier this week. Tim Erixon having a quite but capable first NHL game. Facing the team that drafted him, Brian Boyle finding the form that saw him turn into a goal scorer in the first half of last season. Cally not to get hurt. Hank to out-save Quick in front of a loving crowd.
Also Check Out: The Royal Half, Surly & Scribe, SBN's The Battle of California and Jewels From The Crown, and Rich Hammond's Kings Insider.