LOS ANGELES -- And here we are, hockey fans. Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals between the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings, a marquee matchup that features a battle between both coasts with all the compelling storylines and star power to boot. The Kings enter the series as the heavy favorite, having just knocked off the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks in a thrilling seven-game series. Meanwhile, the Rangers are happy to embrace the underdog role as they make their first finals appearance since their championship run in 1994.
Battle in net: If there’s any area in which the Rangers hold a distinct advantage over the Kings, it is with their elite goaltending. Star netminder Henrik Lundqvist has been terrific thus far this spring, backstopping the Rangers with some sensational play through the Eastern Conference finals. He leads the NHL with a .928 save percentage this spring. And he has followed up his two off nights -- Game 6 in the club’s first-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers and Game 5 against the Montreal Canadiens -- with outstanding bounce-back efforts to close out those respective series. Though the Kings boast former Conn Smythe Trophy winner Jonathan Quick between the pipes, he hasn’t been quite as consistent as the King. Adding further intrigue to the head-to-head battle is the fact that Quick took a shot up high during practice Tuesday and left the ice early. Kings head coach Darryl Sutter insisted Quick was fine, however, and would be available to play Wednesday.
Familiar foes: Marian Gaborik has been outstanding for the Kings during this playoff run, leading the league with 12 postseason goals and chipping in with seven assists. Now he’ll have a little bit of extra motivation when he faces his former teammates in the finals. The three-time 40-goal scorer spent more than three seasons on Broadway before he was shipped out of town at the trade deadline last year. Another trade deadline came and went this March, and Gaborik was dealt from Columbus to L.A., where he has found a seamless fit. The 32-year-old Trencin, Slovakia, product said it will be a “little weird” to clash with his old club, but he’s relishing the opportunity to compete for the Cup with the Kings.
Not just yet: Though Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr, who has missed the last month of play with a knee injury, has been medically cleared to play, he will not be in the Kings' lineup Wednesday night as they attempt to chase their second Cup in a matter of three years. Though Regehr said he feels ready to play, Sutter erred on the side of caution for the series opener, opting to give him more time to recover before throwing him into action.