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Kings, Rangers unveil new looks in Sweden

Oct 7, 2011 - 3:03 PM
(Sports Network) - A pair of clubs that added impressive pieces to their rosters in the offseason will begin their 2011-12 schedules in Europe, as the New York Rangers and Los Angeles Kings tangle today at the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Rangers and Kings are among the four NHL teams that will start their seasons overseas. The Anaheim Ducks and Buffalo Sabres are also playing today in Helsinki, Finland. On Saturday, Buffalo and the Kings will meet in Berlin, Germany, while the Rangers and Ducks are slated to battle each other in Stockholm.

The Kings have been a team on the rise for the past few years and are coming off consecutive first-round exits in the playoffs. Los Angeles hopes centerman Mike Richards can help them get to the next level, after the Kings acquired the former Philadelphia Flyers captain in a trade this summer. Richards, who is considered to be one of the league's top two-way pivots, had 66 points in 81 games with the Flyers last season before getting dealt for Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and a second-round pick in the 2012 draft.

LA also added Richards' former Philadelphia teammate Simon Gagne this summer, signing the 31-year-old winger to a two-year deal. Gagne had 40 points in 63 games for Tampa Bay last year in the regular season and added 12 more points in 16 playoff tilts.

Richards and Gagne should add serious depth to an offense that already boasts strong offensive players like Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Dustin Penner.

The Kings didn't need to do much on the back end thanks to the presence of one of the top defensive tandems in Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson, both former top-five draft picks, while young goaltender Jonathan Quick is coming off another solid campaign.

Doughty is expected to play today despite holding out in a contract dispute for a large part of the preseason. The stalemate with LA management ended with Doughty signing an eight-year, $56 million on Sep. 29.

The Rangers, meanwhile, will watch the official debut of centerman Brad Richards today after signing the top prize of this summer's free-agent class to a nine-year, $60 million contract. The expectations are high for Richards, who has been reunited with former coach John Tortorella for whom he was a Conn Smythe winner when the two won a Stanley Cup together for the Tampa Bay Lighting back in 2004.

Tortorella is expected to use Richards on the top line with sniping winger Marian Gaborik, who is coming off a disappointing second season in New York. Gaborik had 42 goals and 86 points for the Blueshirts in 2009-10, but managed just 22 goals and 48 points in 62 games last year.

The Rangers success still lies between the pipes where goaltender Henrik Lundqvist remains one of the best in the game at his position. The netminder is coming off another terrific season and is ready to get another solid campaign kicked off today in his native Sweden.

Lundqvist is 2-3-0 lifetime with a 2.97 goals-against average versus LA. Quick has a win in his only career outing against the Rangers.

Rangers top defenseman Marc Staal will miss the start of the season with a concussion and is out indefinitely.

New York has won three of its last four meetings with the Kings, but the clubs have split the last six encounters.