Tonight is the first real test of the Kings' young season. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
As far as early season matchups go, tonight is the biggest test the Kings have faced yet.
An opportunity to win a game in a row for the 5th time this year? Check. A tilt against a team that's actually good? Check. Going up against one of the teams in the NHL right now?
Check, check, and check.
The Kings haven't faced a real opponent in a while, mostly cellar dwellars and also-rans, but tonight they're facing a real NHL team. Should be fun. Terry Murray saved #1 goaltender Jonathan Quick for tonight because he knew that the Columbus Blue Jackets were a team the Kings actually had to be worried about. Both the Kings and the Blue Jackets are coming off disappointing losses to bad teams* but hey, road losses in trap games to inferior opponents have struck jet lagged teams before. They're still very good teams.
*Back-up goaltender Jonathan Bernier seemed to run into a problem back-ups for good teams frequently run into. You see, Bernier is used to facing the Kings in practice and therefore his reflexes are fine-tuned from facing the blistering hard shots of the Kings players. Often times Monday night Bernier had already moved to make a save and then reset before the puck even got to him. The Kings would be wise to bring in a few of their junior players to shoot on Bernier before he plays San Jose again to better prepare him for the Sharks' shooting ability
Tonight... tonight is a big game. The Kings are playing the Columbus Blue Jackets (the Columbus Blue Jackets!), a streaking team from the Central Division and a team that has gone a stellar 4-1 on the road this season. I don't have to tell you the success this team has had in the post-season in the past. Who can forget their unforgettable performance against Detroit in 2009, or that stellar play they exhibited in aught-nine against the Red Wings? This year's Blue Jackets are headlined by the dangerous Rick Nash and are led on the back end by the versatile Marc Methot. Both have far more talent and game than anyone on the lesser teams the Kings have played recently. I mean, James Wisniewski, Dan Boyle and Shane O'Brien are nice players but... c'mon. Marc Methot.
This is the first real test the Kings have had this week: a victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets would go a long way in establishing the Kings as contenders in the Western Conference. This should be the preeminent game in the NHL so far.
Kings. Blue Jackets. It'll be a doozy!
Prediction: Kings win, 3-1. The fans celebrate as the Kings won the really important game they'll play this week.