|Former Kings of Las Vegas to visit Golden Knights|
LAS VEGAS -- The Los Angeles Kings have kind of made Las Vegas their home away from home over the years, regularly playing preseason games in Sin City.
So one would think the Kings, who visit the T-Mobile Arena on Sunday night for their first regular-season NHL game, would be a natural rival for the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, especially since it's a matchup between the top two teams in the Pacific Division standings.
But Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said he believes there's more to a rivalry than geography. Many Kings fans can drive to the game in about four hours from southern California.
"Sure, there's the makings (of a rivalry) with anybody but we're a long ways from that," Gallant said after practice Saturday. "We have to establish ourselves as a good team. I think when you make rivalries it starts with a good playoff series the year before. Until we make the playoffs and get into a battle ...
"I think we want to make rivalries with different teams but we're an expansion team and I think it's going to take a while."
Vegas defenseman Nate Schmidt seems anxious to get things going with the Kings.
"You want it to be (a good rivalry)," Schmidt said. "When I played in Washington it really was a lot of fun to go play Philly or go play Pittsburgh. ... It feels a little more like a playoff game every time that you play them. (The Kings) are one of the teams I would love to have that with because, hey, we're open for any type of rivalry right now, right?"
So Schmidt issued this salvo for the Kings (12-6-2), who increased their first place lead in the Pacific to three points over the Golden Knights (11-6-1) with a 4-0 shutout over Florida on Saturday afternoon at Staples Center.
"They were doing the right thing," Schmidt said of the Kings playing their annual preseason games in Las Vegas. "They were laying the foundation for us. I really appreciate their efforts but it's our town now, and I can't wait for the game (Sunday night)."
Actually, the Golden Knights would welcome the chance to play anybody at home. Vegas just finished a stretch that saw it play eight of nine games on the road with a 5-2 victory at Vancouver on Thursday night. Vegas is 7-1-0 at home this season but will be facing a Kings team that is 6-2-0 on the road.
Los Angeles snapped a four-game losing streak Saturday as backup goaltender Darcy Kuemper stopped 24 shots for his first shutout with the Kings and eighth of his career. Kuemper improved 3-0-1 while starting in place of Jonathan Quick (9-6-1), who had gotten the nod in each of the past five games and is expected to be in net Sunday against the Golden Knights.
"I had a good feeling at the end of the game that we had contributions from everybody dressed tonight," Kings coach John Stevens said. "We got a really strong performance from Darcy in the net, especially early, they had some good chances early. I think it looked like he was really dialed in. We were able to get six defensemen playing regularly, and we got contributions from all four lines."