Blackhawks vs. Kings preview: L.A. hoists banner, begins Stanley Cup defense

Victor Decolongon

The Los Angeles Kings will begin their title defense on Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Los Angeles Kings will finally be able to hoist the first Stanley Cup championship banner in franchise history on Saturday afternoon when they open the 2013 regular season against the Chicago Blackhawks at Staples Center.

Following an incredible run through the postseason last year, the final part of the Kings' celebration was delayed due to the lockout. With the labor mess finally sorted out, Los Angeles will be able to begin their title defense in earnest on Saturday.

Over the off-season, the Kings were able to retain every player who took a shift in the postseason last year. This continuity has allowed the concept of consecutive championships to be discussed, which would be the first time a team was able to accomplish such a feat since the Detroit Red Wings did it in the late 90s.

Despite each player remaining on the roster, the Kings will have to start the season without forward Anze Kopitar who is still recovering from a sprained right knee. As of Friday, it appeared as though Kopitar was close to returning. In addition, defenseman Willie Mitchell will not be available on opening day as he is still recovering from knee surgery.

Chicago will look to start the year on a good note.

Captain Jonathan Toews was forced to miss practice on Friday due to the flu. However, the team is hopeful that he will be available for Saturday's game. If he is unable to play, it is believed that Brandon Saad will center Daniel Carcillo and Marian Hossa.

Hossa will be playing in his first game since sustaining a concussion at the hands of Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres in Game 3 of the opening round of last year's postseason. Hossa has stated that he feels well and is not suffering from any residual side effects.

Saturday's game will be nationally televised in the United States at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.

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