On October 2nd, the day after Frozen Fury, the yearly exhibition game between the Kings and Colorado Avalanche in Las Vegas, Nevada, many Kings’ fans will find themselves driving through the desert back towards California and their everyday lives. The Kings on the other hand will be starting the team’s longest road trip, in terms of distance, sending them over 5,500 miles from the Staples Center where they will begin their 2011-2012 season.
The Kings along with the Anaheim Ducks, Buffalo Sabres, and New York Rangers will be apart of the 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere and NHL Face Off, which will feature four NHL games taking place in Finland, Sweden, and Germany. The KIngs themselves will face off against the New York Rangers on October 7th in Stockholm Sweden, and the Buffalo Sabres the next day in Berlin Germany, concluding their European trip.
However, the Kings will not come directly back to sunny Southern California once the they finish their European match ups. They will make stops in New Jersey and Philadelphia on October 13th and 15th respectively to play against the Devils and Flyers finishing out the road trip totaling just over two weeks since departing from Las Vegas.
Most fans cringe when they think about the fact that they will have to wait nearly two weeks into the NHL season to begin another year of cheering on their Kings at the Kings home opener on October 18th. However, although the wait will drag on for what will seem like forever, this road trip could be the best thing to happen to the Kings.
For a Kings team that has seen it’s fair share of players, Michal Handzus, Alexei Ponikarovski, Wayne Simmonds, Ryan Smyth, and Brayden Schenn, shipped to other teams, and a group of players, Mike Richards and Simon Gagne, brought into the line up during the off season, everything from line mates to roommates will be shaken up come time for puck drop in early October. That being true, any time is a good time to build some team chemistry.
This trip will give the Kings’ new additions a chance to adjust to their new team, and for the Kings to adjust to the new faces in the locker room. They will be able to find a group of guys to play poker with on team flights, become acquainted with new roommates, get to know their new line mates at a team dinner, find a new guy to sit next to in the locker room, anything and everything will prove to be an oppurtune time to start new bonds with new teammates and grow as a team.
This time will allow players to form new pregame routines that may have been thrown off by the departure of a fellow friend or line mate. Being allowed to begin a new pregame ritual could prove vital to players that can be thrown off if they aren’t used to their new routine, which could throw their game all out of whack, and we definitely don’t want that.
All of the new kid in the room jitters for Richards and Gagne should be lost during this road trip, allowing both them and their new teammates to become comfortable with the changes that have occurred. Ultimately resulting in better on ice production. Achieving all this development and team chemistry in just the first two weeks of the season, stemming from the teams first extended road trip.
When the Kings return to Los Angeles, a much more unified team will be stepping off the plane and into the battle that is the NHL Regular Season.