With the first puck drop of the 2019-20 season quickly approaching, general manager Rob Blake and the Los Angeles Kings will soon begin the process of rebuilding. The franchise’s schedule consists of 41 home games for Staples Center’s 20th anniversary season, 15 back-to-back matchups and an enthusiastic contest at Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Below are five must-see Kings games for fans to tune in, whether it’s in Staples Center, on the road or in front of a television.
Welcome to Hockeywood
Oct. 12 vs. Nashville Predators
The Kings will start the 2019-20 season in Canada for three games before hosting the Nashville Predators in their home opener. At that point, hockey will officially be back – but it won’t truly feel definite until the team hits the ice at Staples Center in front of the home crowd.
The Kings will take on a tough squad led by defender and captain Roman Josi. In the first round of the 2018-19 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Nashville Predators were shockingly eliminated by the Dallas Stars in seven games. The franchise has consistently performed well over the last few years, so this game won’t be an easy one.
Not only are the Kings going to face off against the defending Central Division champions, but they’ll welcome Todd McLellan to Kings territory. Entering his 12thNHL season with Los Angeles, McLellan has racked up an impressive 434-282-90 record as head coach for two fellow Pacific Division rivals: the San Jose Sharks and the Edmonton Oilers.
A veteran coach with a résumé to prove his worth should bring some excitement to fans, regardless if the franchise doesn’t see progress right away. A warm welcome for McLellan should be expected on Oct. 12.
NorCal vs. SoCal
Nov. 25 vs. San Jose Sharks
One of hockey’s most prized rivalries will resume once again in late November. No, not the Boston Bruins and Montréal Canadiens, but the classic NorCal vs. SoCal clash. The Kings will get the first crack at the Sharks at Staples Center on Nov. 25.
This rivalry has existed since the Sharks entered the league in the 1991-92 season. It heated up during the 2010-11 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the first time the two teams faced off in the postseason. The rivalry reached its highest point during 2013-14 playoffs and let’s just say, it was one of the greatest comebacks in NHL history.
The Kings will have to wait until 2020 to see Joe Pavelski for the first time in a different uniform. The forward signed with the Dallas Stars during the offseason, so it’ll be interesting to see the rivalry now without a player who knew it all too well.
Fans of both franchises know that these two teams despise each other. The Sharks hold the all-time series record at 94-78-7 and have had the most playoff success since the 3-0 comeback. Despite the Kings beginning their rebuild, expect a physical game every time these two squads see each other.
Dec. 2 at Anaheim Ducks
Honda Center: a home away from home, in a way. The Kings will head “on the road” and start their Freeway Face-Off with the Anaheim Ducks on Dec. 2. For the first time in 14 seasons, the Kings will not see Corey Perry in a Ducks uniform.
Like the Sharks with Pavelski, the franchise lost their beloved forward to the Dallas Stars during the offseason. Perry concluded his time in Anaheim second in goals (372) and third in assists (404) and points (776). Losing a player like Perry is hard on a franchise, so it’ll be curious to see how the Ducks compete in response to that.
Although the Kings have a 25-30-8 record at Honda Center, playing there is still considered to be a home game for the team. Fans of both franchises are known for making the freeway trips to represent their team on the road, which strengthens the SoCal rivalry. Los Angeles has the opportunity to claim the all-time record this season as Anaheim holds it at 70-67-11. Without Perry, the Kings have a chance of pulling it off.
Feb. 15 at Colorado Avalanche
Whether it’s the Winter Classic or Stadium Series, outdoor games are always the highlight of the regular season. The Colorado Avalanche will play host in the 2020 Stadium Series against the Kings at United States Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium. It’ll be the first outdoor game for Los Angeles since the 2015 Stadium Series at Levi’s Stadium against the Sharks, which resulted in a 2-1 victory for the Kings.
Colorado’s first and only outdoor game came in 2016 as they hosted the Detroit Red Wings at Coors Field, which concluded in a 5-3 loss. This will be the first meeting between the two teams of the 2019-20 season with the Kings holding the all-time record at 70-52-4.
Last postseason, the Avalanche surprised the hockey world as they clinched a wild card spot and upset the Western Conference champion and No. 1 seed Calgary Flames in five games. They were ultimately eliminated by the Sharks in the second round but have grown into early playoff favorites for the 2019-20 season.
Related: New Season, New Avalanche
This matchup marks the second time the event comes to a U.S. service academy, following the 2018 Stadium Series at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs. It will also be the first-ever NHL event hosted at Falcon Stadium, which has a capacity of a little over 46,500.
Final Regular-Season Game
Apr. 4 vs. Dallas Stars
The last game of the regular season is always a bittersweet moment, especially when it’s in front of the home crowd. Los Angeles will conclude Staples Center’s 20thanniversary season against former King Ben Bishop, Pavelski, Perry and the Stars. At this point, the Kings might be hosting one of hockey’s best teams.
Only time will tell if the additions of Pavelski and Perry will work in the Stars favor, but given their NHL résumés combined, it should. Los Angeles will also see Bishop one last time for the 2019-20 season. In his very short time with the Kings, the goaltender appeared in seven games and registered a 2-3-2 record.
Related: Pavelski, Perry Join Stars
On the bright side, the Kings will most likely host Fan Appreciation Night for its loyal fans to conclude one of many promotional nights. Past giveaways, jerseys, etc. will be awarded all night long. Regardless if the Kings are getting ready to compete in the playoffs (!) or preparing for the offseason, this is one game fans should attend. Who doesn’t like free hockey gear?
Sara Biela is a Los Angeles Kings contributor for The Hockey Writers. Biela graduated from San Jose State University in 2019 with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism. She covered SJSU Athletics and the San Jose Sharks through the college’s student-run sports-media publication, The Spear.