Even with the Kings seemingly on the verge of becoming consistent contenders in the Western Conference, the lure of returning home was just too much for Ryan Smyth to ignore.
Los Angeles fulfilled Smyth's wishes this offseason, sending the Alberta native back to the Edmonton Oilers, where the 35-year-old began his NHL career after being selected sixth overall in the 1994 draft.
Luckily for Smyth, he appears to have rejoined the Oilers at just the right time and his club will try to win six in a row for the first time in over nine years tonight in Smyth's return to Los Angeles' Staples Center.
Smyth made his NHL debut with the Oilers during the 1994-95 season and remained with the club until getting dealt to the Islanders during the 2006-07 campaign. He then spent two seasons in with the Avalanche and another two with the Kings, posting 45 goals and 100 points in Los Angeles being asking for a trade this offseason.
That could lead to Smyth hearing some boos from the Kings faithful tonight, but the veteran is more concerned with taking care of business on the ice.
"It's a game against my former teammates and it's going to be what it's going to be, so just go out and hopefully get the win," said Smyth.
The winger took care of business in last game, scoring twice in the Oilers' 4-2 victory over the Blues on Sunday. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the league's Rookie of the Month for October, added two assists to give him five goals and six helpers over his first 11 games.
Shawn Horcoff and Jordan Eberle also scored and Nikolai Khabibulin made 28 saves as the Oilers won five in a row for the first time since Dec. 3-11, 2009. They haven't run off six consecutive victories since March 14-26, 2002.
Edmonton's hot start has it tied with Chicago and Dallas for the most points in the Western Conference, but Smyth knows that things can change in a hurry, especially with the Oilers set to begin a six-game road trip tonight. They are 1-1-1 as the guest so far.
"Obviously, you are only as good as your last shift or your last game," said Smyth. "As a group, we've built a string of wins together, which is great, but now we've got to take it on the road."
Edmonton will be thin at the blue line to start the trip. Andy Sutton was suspended for five games for an illegal hit to the head last Friday versus Colorado and isn't eligible to return until Nov. 11 after sitting out Sunday's win. Also, defenseman Cam Barker was scratched before the Blues game with a sore shoulder and Ryan Whitney is already out with a knee injury, so Edmonton recalled Colten Teubert from the minors on Wednesday.
Teubert could make his NHL debut tonight against a Kings club that dealt him to the Oilers on Feb. 28 of last year for Dustin Penner.
Having dropped three of their last four, the Kings will try to avoid getting caught up in Smyth's return and just try to get a win following Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Avalanche.
"He came down with a lot of speed. He made a great shot," Quick said. "He put it in a great spot. I don't think me or the defenseman could have played it any differently."
Anze Kopitar and Scott Parse each had power-play goals for the Kings, while Jarret Stoll notched an assist to give him 299 career points. A bulk of those points came early on in Stoll's career as he spent his first five seasons with the Oilers.
Los Angeles will play six of its next seven on home ice and is slated to have winger Simon Gagne back in action after an injury held him out of Sunday's game. He was able to return to practice this week.
The Kings swept their four-game series with the Oilers last year and are 8-0-4 in the past 12 meetings, dropping all four contests in a shootout.