EDMONTON, Canada — Greetings from the great white north. There have been snow flurries most of the day but no accumulation of snow, which is always good news for travel concerns.
The media turnout for the Oilers’ and Kings’ morning skates at Rexall Place on Tuesday was astonishingly high for a regular-season game. It’s always fun to come up here and see the level of interest.
Jonathan Quick was the first goaltender off the ice for the Kings, meaning he’s expected to start against the Oilers on Tuesday night. Forwards Simon Gagne and Brad Richardson and defenseman Andrew Campbell stayed on the ice for extra work, making them probable scratches. Colin Fraser is expected to return to the lineup, centering the fourth line.
As always, Edmonton winger and former King Ryan Smyth was among the last players to leave the ice. The last few months haven’t been easy for Smyth, who will be 37 on Thursday. He was a healthy scratch for the Oilers’ game against Dallas on Tuesday and he has only one goal and four points this season.
In addition, he had to watch his former Kings teammates win the Stanley Cup in June. Smyth asked the Kings to trade him back to Edmonton in the summer of 2011 for reasons he never explained, though it’s thought that his wife wasn’t happy in Los Angeles and wanted to bring the family back to Canada. After a proposed deal that would have sent Gilbert Brule to the Kings fell through, the Kings traded Smyth to the Oilers for Fraser and a seventh-round draft pick.
Smyth acknowledged that he had conflicting feelings when the Kings succeeded last June. “I’d be lying to you if I’d be sitting here and saying I didn’t,” he said. “It was tough to swallow, for sure, but it was great to see some of my friends win it.”
He said he was happy with his decision to return to Edmonton. “No regrets,” he said. “Obviously, you can’t live in the past. You can’t sit there and dwell on things. My family’s safe, and that’s the most important thing.”
He also said he had “moved on” after Coach Ralph Krueger’s decision to hold him out of the lineup. “We’re competitors. We want to play,” he said. “We want to be out there in the mix of everything, but the coach had a different plan that night. It’s over and done with. You just move forward. We’re here today. We live for today.”
Edmonton winger Nail Yakupov had the same mantra when asked about his exuberant, sliding celebration of his tying goal against the Kings the last time these teams met, on Jan. 24. Yakupov’s antics were hotly debated, but don’t expect to see a repeat performance should he score against the Kings on Tuesday.
“I don’t want to talk about history. Today is a new day,” he said. “I just want to keep working and keep going.”
Kings captain Dustin Brown said Yakupov’s celebration was “a little excessive,” and seemed surprised that Edmonton reporters asked him about it Tuesday.
“It’s not going to be the motivating factor for us tonight, the celebration of an 18-year-old kid,” he said.
The Kings have bigger concerns, such as ranking 27th in goals per game, at 2.23, and ranking 14th in the West. They’re five points out of the final playoff position but have played three fewer games than the eighth-place Dallas Stars.
Defenseman Drew Doughty, who’s still waiting for his first goal this season, said the lockout-shortened schedule puts greater weight on each game for a team that’s playing catch-up.
“Every single game matters so much,” he said. “Right now we have a couple games in hand on some teams and those games in hand don’t mean anything unless we win them, so we’ve got to win them. Especially games like this, when we’ve got back-to-back games. [Tuesday] night is our priority and we’ve got to win and make this a good road trip.”
The Kings, who opened this trip with a 3-2 loss at Chicago on Tuesday, will end it Wednesday at Calgary.
Check back later for more coverage.