Rivalry revs up as Golden Knights duel Kings in playoffs

Updated April 9, 2018 - 12:06 am

The seeds of the rivalry between the Golden Knights and the Los Angeles Kings were planted during the NHL regular season. But with the teams scheduled to meet in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, there’s an opportunity for the rivalry to take firm root.

Game 1 of the best-of-7 series is 7 p.m. Wednesday at T-Mobile Arena. Game 2 is Friday at T-Mobile with Games 3 and 4 in Los Angeles April 15 and 17.

Let the hate begin.

“They have good players and we always have good battles against them,” Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault said. “But we need to go in as a confident group and if we play our game and don’t worry about them, we’ll be fine.”

The Knights won the first two meetings, 4-2 at home on Nov. 19 and 3-2 in overtime at Los Angeles on Dec. 28. The Kings won 3-2 in OT at Staples Center on Feb. 26 and beat the Knights 4-1 the next night in Las Vegas.

“They’re a good team,” forward Reilly Smith said of the Kings, who finished with a 45-29-8 record and 98 points. “Every time we’ve played them this year they’ve put up a good challenge. Up and down their lineup, they’re pretty strong and talented. It’ll be a good test for us.”

The Knights, winners of the Pacific Division in their inaugural season, finished their record-setting year with a 51-24-7 record and 109 points. But that is behind them. For coach Gerard Gallant, it’s about making as deep a run as possible.

“Now that you’ve made it, you want to win it,” Gallant said. “We’ve got a veteran group that has played in a lot of big games so I don’t think the moment will be too big for us.

“We stopped looking at ourselves as an expansion team a long time ago. We think when we’re playing the game the right way that we’re a pretty good hockey team. We’re getting healthy at the right time and I expect us to play well in the playoffs.”

Having Smith back in the lineup Saturday against Calgary was an important step. So was having forward Will Carrier back on the ice earlier in the week. Carrier brings toughness and speed to the team’s fourth line.

Defenseman Luca Sbisa is practicing and should be available after injuring his right hand against the Kings on Feb. 27. Gallant also expects David Perron to be ready; Perron has missed the last six games with an upper-body injury.

Gallant wasn’t thrilled with the lack of focus in Saturday’s 7-1 loss to the Flames, but he’s grateful the Knights didn’t sustain any other injuries as they begin preparation Monday morning at City National Arena.

“That was the biggest thing, no one got hurt,” he said. “We can focus on the playoffs now and I think we’ll be fine.”

To that end, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury survived his shaky two periods in net against the Flames and came out with only his pride wounded. Fleury, a three-time Stanley Cup champion when he played for the Pittsburgh Penguins, goes up against the Kings’ Jonathan Quick, who owns a couple of Stanley Cup rings himself.

“It should be a good series,” Fleury said of the Kings. “They’re a good team and have some very good players.

“You never like to lose the last game before the playoffs, but we will put it behind us.”

More Golden Knights: Follow all of our Golden Knights coverage online at reviewjournal.com/GoldenKnights and @HockeyinVegas on Twitter.

Contact Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow @stevecarprj on Twitter.

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