While the Devils and Kings didn’t face each other many times this season, just twice and those don’t mean much now, these two franchises have a lot of links tying them together.
Rich Hammond of L.A. Kings Insider broke down all the different ties that bind Los Angeles and New Jersey and we find out if there was such a thing as “long term money on the board” there’d be a whole lot of cash to get for both teams.
Here are a few of the more interesting potential story lines to look out for.
—- Ilya Kovalchuk turned down the Kings to sign with the Devils during the “Summer of Kovalchuk” in 2010.
—- Devils assistant coach Larry Robinson was the Kings’ head coach for four years and played for the Kings for three seasons. In his four years as coach, he took the Kings to the playoffs once in 1998 getting swept by St. Louis in the first round.
—- Kings defenseman Matt Greene and Devils captain Zach Parise were roommates and teammates in college at the University of North Dakota. It’s like Tim Thomas and Martin St. Louis all over again, just not as cuddly.
—- Kings GM Dean Lombardi and Devils GM Lou Lamoriello are long time friends and confidants.
—- Willie Mitchell was originally a New Jersey Devil. Coincidentally, he first signed with Los Angeles the same summer Kovalchuk signed with New Jersey.
—- Peter Harrold and Alexei Ponikarovsky were both Kings just last season. They were clearly destined to be in the finals this season.
The most interesting one here is Kovalchuk’s place in the series. He’s been the focus of attention no matter what in the playoffs (15-year, $100 million contracts help that) but now he’s going against the team he spurned for the Stanley Cup. Hello intrigue!
From the NHL:
Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.
Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.
PITTSBURGH — When Pete DeBoer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks, he wasn’t totally cognizant of how much heartbreak the fan base had experienced throughout the years.
Now he knows.
“First year in the community, I didn’t realize kind of the baggage that was carried around,” DeBoer said this morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Twenty-five-year season-ticket holders coming up to you with tears in their eyes and crying.”
The Sharks, of course, have never been this far in the playoffs. Prior to this year, they’d made it three times to the Western Conference Final, losing each time.
More painful were the first-round exits. Like in 2009 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy and got knocked out by the Ducks, and two years ago when they led the Kings 3-0 before dropping four straight.
It was only after the Sharks beat the Blues that DeBoer fully realized the “gravity of what they’ve been through” as fans in San Jose, and “how important this is to them.”
Not that he’s satisfied with getting this far.
“The business at hand now is to get off on the right foot, plant the right seeds for this series, impose our game,” he said. “Every series is the same — it’s whatever team can impose their game on the other team the quickest and for the longest. That’s our goal here tonight.”
Related: For Pete DeBoer, San Jose was the perfect landing spot
Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar will spend part of his offseason trying to help Slovenia qualify for the Olympics.
RTV Slovenia has the story here.
The qualification games will be played September 1-4 in Minsk. Slovenia is in a group with Belarus, Denmark and Poland. The winner of the group will qualify for the Olympics.
The NHL reportedly has no issue with Kopitar’s participation, even though the league has yet to commit to sending its players to Pyeongchang.
Slovenia made its Olympic debut in ice hockey at the 2014 Games in Sochi.
Kopitar will also represent Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup later in September.
Related: Slovenia beats Slovakia for historic win
PITTSBURGH — Matt Nieto is healthy, and ready to go.
But it doesn’t look like he’ll go tonight.
The San Jose Sharks are unlikely to make any lineup changes for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh — at Monday’s optional morning skate, Nieto stayed out late with the extras while the guy he’d (presumably) replace in the lineup, Dainius Zubrus, told NHL.com he was in.
Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer wouldn’t reveal any lineup decisions during his morning media availability, instead talking up both Nieto (for his speed) and Zubrus (for his “heavy” game), adding he liked the versatility the two give the club on a night-by-night basis.
Nieto suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6 of the Nashville series, and missed all of the Western Conference Final.
Prior to getting hurt, he had three points in 11 games — this after a regular season in which he scored eight goals and 17 points in 67 games.