When the puck drops Wednesday night in Philadelphia, the NHL’s second season will have officially begun, as the Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins face off in the earliest of three opening-night matches.
And while the current edition of the London Knights is very much entrenched in their own playoff run, hockey fans in the Forest City will surely be looking for a professional team or two to latch onto in the coming months.
The Washington Capitals is the easy choice, with local ties abound. Dale Hunter’s switcheroo from behind the Knights’ bench to the Capitals’ back in late November is just the starting point. Washington also boasts three alumni — John Carlson, John Erskine and Dennis Wideman — who all patrol the blueline for Hunter.
If the seventh-ranked Caps plan on making a splash in the Eastern Conference though, they’ll probably have to overcome the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins and alumnus Chris Kelly.
If that’s not tough enough, likely waiting on the other side will be the top ranked club in the east, the New York Rangers. Two members of the 2005 Memorial Cup-winning Knights team — forward Brandon Prust and rearguard Daniel Girardi — represent two-thirds of the alumni contingent currently calling the Big Apple home. The other is reliable defenceman Michael Del Zotto.
Westward, with past Knight Kyle Quincey on defence and London being a short drive from Hockeytown, Detroit is a favourable option.
The No. 5 seeded Wings will battle the Nashville Predators and their sole local connection, former first overall import selection Sergei Kostitsyn, in arguably the most intriguing first-round matchup.
Rounding out the 13-player list of Knights in the NHL playoffs is a pair of depth players: Krystofer Barch of the surprising No. 3 seeded Florida Panthers and Zac Rinaldo of the bruising lineup that is the Flyers.