|Jarret Stoll and Anze Kopitar rockin’ mullets, in honor of Ryan Smyth (photo: LA Kings)|
Do the Kings and Oilers ever just play a ‘regular’ game?
For several decades now, it seems like there is always something on the line. From the Kings beating the Oilers in the Miracle on Manchester to Wayne Gretzky’s milestone points vs. Edmonton. From payback for Craig Muni breaking Tomas Sandstrom‘s leg in the playoffs to former captain Kelly Buchberger’s return to Edmonton. From Lubomir Visnovsky‘s return to LA to a the Dustin Penner-Colten Teubert trade last year. It’s always something.
Tonight is no different. Over the summer, Ryan Smyth asked GM Dean Lombardi for a trade and basically tied his hands by requesting only a move to Edmonton.
I spoke with a few of the Kings about facing the quickly improving Oilers, and specifically, they’re former teammate…
“There’s a lot of history, for sure,” said Jarret Stoll. “We have a lot of guys who have been on that side and vise versa. Smytty had his decisions and his reasons. It is what it is. We just move on, we play hockey and we try to win games. If he’s happy there, that’s great. We feel we’re a good team in here and we’re focusing on that.”
When asked for their favorite memory of Smyth’s time in LA, nearly every player said the same thing – “When we wore the mullets in warm-up. That was a fun day around here,” remarked Stoll.
Drew Doughty agreed – “I think his 1,000th game was (great). Throwing on those wigs in warm-ups was a lot of fun. I’d say that was probably my most memorable moment with him on the ice.”
Even coach Terry Murray agreed, and shared how Smyth was sure to include his teammates in the milestone – “He handed everybody a nameplate, with a picture of him in an Oilers sweater and as an LA King. It was very well done and very well thought out and included his teammates…He’s a good player and a good person. That’s why he’s been around the game as long as he has.”
Memories aside, thoughts quickly turn to shutting down #94 tonight…
“Smytty’s a good player, we all know that. He does his job right in front of the net better than anyone. So, it’s going to be a tough task for us, to take him out in front of the net,” said Doughty. “You know, I don’t know how he does it. We always talk about this. Smytty is just slippery. He’s obviously great, so he gets lucky a lot. I remember in my first year, he got that one goal against me where he dangled me. First I stopped, it hit my skate and went right back to his tape, and then he put it through my legs. He’s just slippery. He’s really good at what he does.”
Matt Greene was even thinking beyond just Smyth…
“It’s actually weird, I think every time we’ve played these guys the last few years, they’ve been big games. Either we’ve been needing the points in the standings, or it’s been coming down to a pivotal time (of the season). So, I think it’s been real easy to get up for these games. Even last year, when their record didn’t show it, they were an exciting team to play against. It’s always fun playing Edmonton and to get a crack at some of the guys you used to play with, even though there’s only a handful of guys left when I was there.”
How about the reception for Smyth, what will it be like when he skates onto the Staples Center ice?
“Who knows,” thought Greene. “I’ve seen all different types of reactions going back into places – from cheers to boos to whatever. Who knows what’s going to happen. But, hey, fans are paying their money to come to the game, they can say whatever they want.”
Last season, Smyth sat down exclusively with MayorsManor in the days leading up to his 1,000th game to talk about key milestones in his career.
To read that article now, click here.