Kings (6-3-2, 14 points) vs. Edmonton Oilers (7-2-2, 16 points) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Squeaky new – It’s not even close. By a wide margin, the Oilers have fielded the worst product in the NHL the last two seasons, sputtering to a league-low 62 points each year. Beneath the surface, however, management has been steadfastly rebuilding the organization. The seeds are finally beginning to bear fruit. Heading into Thursday’s schedule, the Oilers are tied for the most points in the Western Conference, own the best goal differential (+7) and have the longest current winning streak in the league at five games.
2. Smitty returns – A key reason for Edmonton’s success has been the addition of left wing Ryan Smyth, who spent the last two seasons playing in Los Angeles. He was third on the Kings last year with 23 goals and provided veteran leadership for a young team trying to take the next step. For family reasons, Smyth asked to be traded back to Edmonton, where he spent the first 11 seasons of his career. The Kings complied, even though they received very little value in return. It's no surprise Smyth has brought along his best attributes, tying for the team lead with five goals and contributing five assists, all the while sharing his years of experience with the younger crop of players.
3. Speaking of trades – Some interesting news came out of Edmonton earlier Wednesday. Colten Teubert, a defenseman who the Kings traded to Edmonton in February in the deal that brought over Dustin Penner, was called up from the American Hockey League and could make his NHL debut at Staples Center. Teubert was a first-round draft pick of the Kings in 2008, but became expendable due to the organization’s depth along the blue line. Penner hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations in L.A., however, scoring just three goals in 38 games.
4. Doughty’s debut – Another player who hasn’t been spotted around Staples Center since last season is Kings defenseman Drew Doughty. He missed the home preseason games while negotiating a new contract, then was hurt in the final game of a four-game road trip to start the season. He missed the three games played at Staples Center last month but returned for the middle game of a three-game road trip last week. Doughty has struggled to make contributions thus far, and coach Terry Murray said Tuesday that the team’s highest-paid player appears to be trying too hard to make an impact. How the Kings faithful greet Doughty after his preseason absence should be interesting to monitor as well.
5. Full compliment – For only the second time this season, the Kings are expected to have left wings Simon Gagne, Scott Parse and Penner in the same game. Gagne is a two-time 40-goal scorer and Penner a four-time 20-goal scorer. Kings general manager Dean Lombardi also says he believes Parse is one of the top three most skilled offensive players on the team, when he's healthy. If the three can find a way to stay out of the trainer's room, they should form a strong triple layer with centers Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll.