Los Angeles Kings’ Matt Ellis this morning became the first NHL player to step onto the ice of the Sprint Center.
Ellis knocked a puck into an open net during the Kings’ morning skate in preparation for tonight’s exhibition game against the St. Louis Blues. Face off is at 7:05, and plenty of tickets remain available.
The Kings, who are owned by Anschutz Entertainment Group, which manages the 11-month-old Sprint Center, will serve as home team tonight against the Blues, who did not skate at the arena this morning.
The Kings were impressed with their first look at the Sprint Center, especially its expansive locker room, weight room, training room and other amenities.
“This place is beautiful,” said Kings veteran defender Tom Preissing. “This is nicer than most of the rinks we get to play in. The whole locker room is absolutely amazing. I heard the visitors’ locker room rivals any visitor locker room around. It’s impressive so far.
“It seems like they took a lot of care and thought and effort in what players would want, and it’s a beautiful space. I know they built this rink with the intention of getting a tenant, and we’re definitely going to try to put on a good show, and hopefully the fans are going to watch it.”
Because the Kings also have a preseason game scheduled tonight in Los Angeles against Phoenix, the 21-man squad they brought to Kansas City did not include leading scorer Anze Kopitar or starting goaltender Jason LaBarbera.
“The thing about these pre-season games is you get a lot of young kids with a whole bunch of energy, and they’re looking to make their mark a little more,” Preissing said, “It’s kind of fun to see what these young kids can do.”
The Blues, who play the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night in St. Louis, did not bring starting goalie Manny Legace or two of their leading scorers from last season, Brad Boyes or Keith Tkachuk.
Los Angeles assistant coach Mark Hardy is subbing for head coach Terry Murray, who remained with the Kings’ team that is playing Phoenix.
“Even though it’s an exhibition game, we have a lot of guys who are trying to make this team, and these kids are going to be giving their all, and the people will appreciate it,” Hardy said. “Hopefully they’ll buy into what we’re trying to sell here, and maybe one day we can end up with NHL team here.”
Interestingly, the Kings will broadcast this game back to Los Angeles instead of airing the game at their home arena, the Staples Center