As road trips go, there's not many that will be more arduous than what the Los Angeles Kings will open Tuesday night in KeyBank Center.
The Kings' game against the Buffalo Sabres will be the first of nine straight away from Staples Center. They'll start it with seven games over 12 days, break for Christmas and then play two more away from home. The trip is the result of a packed schedule at Staples, a four-day run of Disney on Ice plus seven NBA games in a 10-day stretch for the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers.
The Kings are just 4-7-1 on the road this year, compared to 10-4-1 at home. Their trip continues Thursday in Detroit, Friday in Pittsburgh, Sunday in Boston, Dec. 20 in Columbus, Dec. 22 in Nashville and Dec. 23 in Dallas before the Kings get their Christmas break. They head back out on the road for games Dec. 28 in Vancouver and Dec. 29 in Edmonton before hosting San Jose on New Year's Eve in what will be their first home game in 21 days.
Sabres captain Brian Gionta recalled a nine-game road trip when he was part of the New Jersey Devils at the start of the 2007-08 season, prior to the Devils' inaugural game in Prudential Center.
"It was a grind but it was important to go out and stay focused," Gionta recalled of the trip, which saw the Devils go 3-5-1 but stay entirely in the Eastern time zone. "It's not like what these guys have. Ours was broken up a bit. We came back home and practiced some, had games at the Rangers and Islanders, but it was still 10 days at the start."
The longest road trip in Kings history is a 10-gamer in 2010-11 but their longest uninterrupted roadie resulted in a 1-7-1 record in 1969-70.
"I can relate to it as a player. I never have as a coach," said Sabres coach Dan Bylsma, whose career included a stint with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. "When you play out in the West that far away, you get the 10 and 11-dayers once or twice a year and it's a whole different ball of wax managing your schedule, managing the road trip. It's a different mentality and outlook from a coaching staff perspective too. I have experienced them as a player where you pack for 12 days, say your goodbyes and you're out East for a long time."
The Kings are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games but are on a brutal run of games in Buffalo. The Sabres are 13-1-1 here against Los Angeles since the 1992-93 season and have won seven straight since a 4-1 Kings win on Feb. 21, 2003.
The Kings did not practice Monday, flying to Buffalo to prepare for the start of the trip. Former Sabres defenseman Brayden McNabb has been sidelined by a broken collarbone that required surgery since the Kings' loss Oct. 29 to the St. Louis Blues
Sabres winger Kyle Okposo sat out practice Monday with the flu, but coach Dan Bylsma said it was likely that Okposo would be fine for Tuesday's game. That did, however, cost Okposo a second practice with new linemates Jack Eichel and Evander Kane, a switch Bylsma first unveiled at practice Sunday in HarborCenter.
Former Sabres captain Daniel Briere and current Buffalo assistant coach Terry Murray were named as honorary captains for the AHL All-Star Classic Jan. 29-30 in Allentown, Pa., AHL president David Andrews announced Monday.
Briere and Murray will join the teams in the locker room and on the benchs of the event, which will be played in a 3-on-3 format. They will also be recognized for their careers at the annual AHL Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Ceremony.
Murray, in his second system on Dan Bylsma's staff, was a two-time winner of the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL's outstanding defenseman in 1978 and 1979 with the back-to-back Calder Cup champion Maine Mariners in the Philadelphia organization. He played 363 regular-season games in the AHL and won 150 games as an AHL head coach with the Baltimore Skipjacks (1988-90) and the Adirondack/Lehigh Valley Phantoms (2012-15).
Briere spent the majority of his first four professional seasons in the AHL, playing 169 games for the Springfield Falcons in the Phoenix organization. He won the Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding rookie in 1998 after scoring 36 goals and collecting 92 points.