NHL Preview Capsules: Pacific Division
LAST SEASON: 34-36-12, 80 points. Missed playoffs by finishing 11th in the Western Conference.
COACH: Bruce Boudreau, 2nd season with Ducks, 27-23-8; 6th overall, 228-111-48 in NHL.
PLAYER TO WATCH: C Ryan Getzlaf. The Ducks' top playmaker heads into his contract year coming off the worst statistical season of his decorated career. The NHL and Olympic champion needs a huge season with Corey Perry, who's also heading for free agency.
OUTLOOK: Anaheim bolstered its defense with Allen and Souray, but largely kept its offense intact despite last season's disappointments. Even with few changes, the Ducks believe their star-studded veteran roster should be in the playoff hunt again
LAST SEASON: 42-35-5, 89 points. Missed playoffs by finishing 10th in the Western Conference.
COACH: Glen Gulutzan, 2nd season, 42-35-5.
PLAYER TO WATCH: LW Brenden Morrow. It's a contract year for the captain, who scored 35 goals last season.
OUTLOOK: The Stars recently signed G Kari Lehtonen to a five-year contract extension after two relatively healthy seasons in Dallas. The Finn and a relatively solid defense should keep the Stars on the fringes of playoff contention. Seeing how much Dallas can get from the 40-year-old Jagr in the lockout-shortened season will be worth watching.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
LAST SEASON: 40-27-15, 95 points. Won Stanley Cup.
COACH: Darryl Sutter, 2nd season with Kings, 25-13-11; 12th overall, 434-333-142 in NHL.
ADDED: RW Anthony Stewart.
LOST: RW Kevin Westgarth.
PLAYER TO WATCH: C Anze Kopitar. The Kings' leading scorer in five straight seasons injured his knee in Sweden shortly before the lockout ended. He's not expected to play on opening day, and if his injury lingers, Los Angeles' offense will be compromised.
OUTLOOK: With Kopitar, Jonathan Quick, Dustin Brown and every significant player returning from the first championship team in franchise history, the Stanley Cup holders believe their continuity in a short season gives them a strong chance at a repeat.
LAST SEASON: 42-27-13, 97 points. Lost to Los Angeles Kings 4-1 in Western Conference Finals.
COACH: Dave Tippett, 4th season with Coyotes, 125-78-33; 9th overall, 406-234-98 in NHL.
PLAYER TO WATCH: G Mike Smith. The shaggy-haired goalie known as Smitty proved to be a more-than-capable No. 1 goalie in his first full season on the job, winning 28 games with eight shutouts and a 2.21 goals-against average. With the confidence of last season's deep playoff run, he could be a Vezina Trophy candidate.
OUTLOOK: The Coyotes should be brimming with confidence after winning their first division title and reaching the conference finals for the first time in 33 years as an NHL franchise. With the core of last year's roster back, they should be position to get the lockout-shortened season off to a good start and be able to sustain it toward another possible deep run in the playoffs.
SAN JOSE SHARKS
LAST SEASON: 43-29-10, 96 points. Lost to St. Louis 4-1 in first round.
COACH: Todd McLellan, 5th season, 195-92-41.
PLAYER TO WATCH: D Brent Burns. The big acquisition before last season, Burns struggled in his first season with the Sharks as he tried to figure out how to fit in. His points and assists were down from his final year in Minnesota and he was not nearly the aggressive, hard-hitting defenseman the Sharks had been expecting. The Sharks hope that an increased comfort level will lead to better results in year two for Burns.
OUTLOOK: The Sharks hope to be a faster, more aggressive team after the disappointing finish a year ago. They brought back most of the key players from that squad led by captain Joe Thornton but hope Hall of Famer Larry Robinson's impact on the struggling penalty kill unit as a new assistant will help return San Jose near the top of the conference.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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