The basic structure of the NHL schedule is pretty easy to grasp. Each team plays 41 games at home and plays the remaining 41 games on the road against opponents across the United States and Canada. Every team has to play their 41 at home and their 41 on the road, it’s as simple as that. For the Los Angeles Kings, a major chunk of the team’s 41 road games will be played over the next six weeks.
The Kings have 20 games scheduled before the calendar flips to 2016, and of those 20 games, the Kings will be away from Los Angeles for 15 of them. The boys from Los Angeles have had the pleasure of having played 12 of their first 17 games at Staples Center. But now they’ll have to step away from the home cooking and live out of a suitcase for much of the foreseeable future.
Going into this road heavy portion of the schedule, the Kings sit atop the Pacific Division with 22 points and an 11-6-0 record. Over the course of their next 20 games the Kings will travel east twice, play 11 of the Eastern Conference’s 16 teams and work their way across Western Canada to end the 2015 calendar year.
While the Kings seem to have found their groove and possibly reestablished themselves as Cup contenders, this portion of the schedule will be a measuring stick for how the Kings matchup with the rest of the NHL.
Eastern Conference Round 1
Both trips east have a mix of Metropolitan and Atlantic division opponents along with games against tougher
opponents and teams at the back of the pack in the Eastern Conference. However, the Kings’ first trip away from Los Angeles might be the easier of the two.
On their first trip, the Kings visit Philadelphia, Detroit, Carolina and end the trip with the stops in Florida against the Panthers and Lightning. Of those teams, only the Red Wings and Panthers currently have records above .500.
The Kings will be put up against teams with a combined 37-42-12 record on this leg of their trips east and should take advantage of the lighter of the two stretches.
Of course their records might not promote their star talent, the Kings will come across some of the NHL’s best during this trip. Games against Steven Stamkos in Tampa Bay, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk in Detroit and Claude Giroux in Philadelphia won’t be a walk in the park for Los Angeles.
Eastern Conference Round 2
After a brief four game home stand, the Kings will hit the road again for their second trip east in as many weeks. This trip will be a heavier one in the sense the Kings will play six games in 11 days, and will have to go through more of the Eastern Conference’s elite.
This trip will take the Kings through Columbus, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. While Los Angeles will pull better match ups against three of the Eastern Conference’s weaker teams, the Kings will also be paired up with three of the top seven teams in the Conference.
In the middle of this trip, Los Angeles will take on the top two teams from the Atlantic Division in Montreal and Ottawa and will have a back-to-back set against the always-dangerous Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh and young stud Jack Eichel and the Sabres, for four games over seven days. This stretch of hockey could be one of the toughest the Kings have all season.
Western Canada To End The Year
After a brief stop back in Los Angeles to face the Sharks, the Kings will hit the road once again to end 2015. It will be a vital trip for the Kings as they will face four of their six Pacific Division Rivals over the course six days.
The Kings will start the trip in Phoenix, before they head to Vancouver and then Edmonton for a back-to-back and ultimately end this iron man stretch of hockey in Calgary on the very last day of 2015.
This set of games is obviously a bit far down the road but will mark the end of a very tough stretch of hockey for the Kings. Possibly ending a big showing against four division rivals could save a tough stretch of hockey or put an exclamation point on a stellar run. Which will it be for the Kings? Well, we’ll have to wait and see.
What ever the outcome may be, when the first day of Jan. comes around we will have a very clear picture of who the Kings really are.
Eric received his BA in Journalism from California State University, Northridge. Eric has contributed to RinkRoyalty.com, Buffalowdown.com and California Rubber Magazine.