LOS ANGELES – More restrictions, no fans inside the arena and a quirky schedule.
But what's at stake hasn't changed, one of the few familiar aspects of the unique season that'll kick off for the Wild tonight at Staples Center against the Kings – the first of two in a row in Los Angeles.
"Doesn't really seem like a game day sometimes when you're walking into the rink and you go out there for warmups and there's no crowd noise or anything like that," goalie Cam Talbot said during a virtual interview. "But luckily, most of the guys in the room, myself included, were able to play in the bubble and get a little bit of that experience. So hopefully that works well in our favor to start the season here and there's no letdown right off the bat."
The Wild's opening-night opponent wasn't in the bubble and hasn't played a game since March 11, the day before the NHL was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic. But coach Dean Evason isn't expecting that to change what the Kings bring to the ice.
"They got a few more days of training camp, but I think we'll all be on the same page," he said.
Kaprizov will become the first Russian-born player to skate for the Wild and the 87th player to make his NHL debut with the Wild.
"He's a hockey player. He gets it," Evason said. "So I don't anticipate us having to communicate a lot with him, especially because of the guys talking to him. We see that on a constant basis. And one really exciting thing is we see Zach Parise talking to him all the time. Obviously, they're on the same line. They're sitting together most of the time. But if you're gonna have Zach Parise in your ear talking about being a professional, I think we're in a pretty good spot."
Zach Parise-Nick Bjugstad-Kirill Kaprizov
Marcus Johansson-Nick Bonino-Kevin Fiala
Jordan Greenway-Joel Eriksson Ek-Marcus Foligno
Nico Sturm-Victor Rask-Ryan Hartman
Ryan Suter-Matt Dumba
Jonas Brodin-Jared Spurgeon
Carson Soucy-Greg Pateryn
1-7-1: Record for the Wild in season openers on the road.
1: Wins for the Wild in three games vs. the Kings last season.
4-4-3: Showing by the Wild in its last 11 trips to Staples Center.
498: Assists for Ryan Suter, the second-most among active defensemen.
About the Kings:
The season opener caps a lengthy layoff for the Kings, who missed out on the bubble playoffs and finished second-to-last in the Western Conference. Before the pause, the team was on the upswing – winning seven in a row. Even so, Los Angeles is still rebuilding, and this season will show if the team is ready to take a step forward in that process. Forwards Lias Andersson and Andreas Athanasiou and defenseman Olli Maatta are the new faces. Captain Anze Kopitar, defenseman Drew Doughty and goalie Jonathan Quick headline the returnees.