Home opener offers a fresh-start feeling

Times Staff Writers

The Kings returned to practice Wednesday, their first since completing a trip to Europe that included two games in London against the Ducks to open the NHL regular season. Yet, in many ways, some players said Saturday’s home opener feels more like the real start.

“We were aware that the games meant two points in the standings, but it still felt different,” forward Scott Thornton said of the London games. “In a way, that’s good because we get to be fired up all over again for our home opener.”

The Kings, who play host to the St. Louis Blues, are glad to have the extra time off after their trip, which began with an exhibition game in Denver on Sept. 20.


The Ducks, meanwhile, had to play at Detroit on Wednesday, face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday.

“If you’re the Anaheim coaches, you’re telling your team that it is better that we keep playing,” Thornton said. “But of course, for us, it’s good to be able to get a couple of practices in and to get time with your family.”

So the father-and-son reunion is only a slap shot away.

You would have thought rookie Brady Murray would have grabbed the NHL schedule when it was released and circled this Saturday. Not only is it the home opener, but it is against the Blues, led by former Kings coach Andy Murray, Brady’s father.

“I didn’t really know,” Murray said. “I was more concerned about making the team.”

Consider that done.

Murray is one of the 14 forwards on the 23-man roster, and his mother is flying in for the game.

The younger Murray was asked whether, if he scored a goal, he would skate over and give his father the puck. “That’ll be pretty special if I can score against them,” he said.

He also talked of making the leap to the NHL without his dad’s influence. “Definitely gratifying to be here to know I’ve made it on my own,” Murray said.


Coach Marc Crawford did not name a starting goaltender for Saturday but said rookie Jonathan Bernier, who won the season opener, 4-1, making 26 saves, has been impressive.

“We’re going to look at him on a day-to-day basis,” Crawford said. Of goalie Jason LaBarbera’s effort in Sunday’s 4-1 loss, he said, “You can’t fault him. I thought the Ducks played a much better game. . . . “

Anze Kopitar, a native of Slovenia, on the fan support he received in Europe: “I didn’t expect that many fans from back home coming to the games. But a lot of people wanted to see me play in a Kings jersey for the first time.”