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SPORTS EXTRA / NHL PREVIEW

A Closer Look

September 30, 1999|JIM HODGES

* 1998-99 RECORD: 32-45-5.

* LAST SEASON: Fifth in the Pacific Division, 11th in the Western Conference.

* WHO'S NEW: Right wingers Ziggy Palffy (trade) and Marko Tuomainen (free agent); , centers Bryan Smolinski (trade) and Brad Chartrand (free agent); defensemen Frantisek Kaberle (pick), Jere Karalahti (free agent) Jaroslav Modry (draft) and Rich Brennan (waiver draft).

* WHO'S GONE: Left wingers Russ Courtnall (not re-signed) and Matt Johnson (expansion draft), centers Ray Ferraro (not re-signed) and Olli Jokinen (trade), defensemen Mark Visheau (not re-signed), Doug Bodger (not re-signed) and Dave Babych (not re-signed).

* PROJECTED LINES: First line--left wing Luc Robitaille (39 goals, 74 points), center Jozef Stumpel (13-34), right wing Ziggy Palffy (22-50); second line--Donald Audette (18-36), Bryan Smolinski (16-40), Glen Murray (16-31); third line--Craig Johnson (7-19), Ian Laperriere (3-13), Marko Tuomainen (11-28 with HIFK Helsinki); fourth line--Vladimir Tsyplakov (11-23), Jason Blake (1-1) Steve McKenna (1-1).

* PROJECTED DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS: Rob Blake (12-35) and Mattias Norstrom (2-7) or Jaroslav Modry (0-1); Sean O'Donnell (1-14) and Aki Berg (8-15 with TPS Turku in Finland); Garry Galley (4-16) and Frantisek Kaberle (15-33 with MoDo of the Swedish League). Plus Jere Karalahti (11-33 with HIFK Helsinki) and Rich Brennan (1-4).

* GOALTENDERS: Stephane Fiset (18-21-1, 2.60 goals-against average); Jamie Storr (12-12-2, 2.40).

* KEY TO THE SEASON: Only Montreal (184) and Tampa Bay (179) scored fewer goals than the Kings (189). The Kings also were an anemic 13.1% on the power play. The trade for Palffy and Smolinski addressed those glaring problems. And if the "stopping line" does what it's created to do--stop the opposition's top line--the defense will get a real boost. The Kings also will need to improve on the miserable 8-16 record they had against Pacific Division teams.

* OUTLOOK: The Kings could finish last in the Pacific (a possibility because of the improvement in San Jose) and still make the playoffs. A quick start (difficult in a season in which the first seven games are on the road) and quick acclimation to the Staples Center as home ice could bring the Kings back to at least .500, probably enough to make the playoffs.

* TICKETS: (888) 546-4752.

CENTERS

*--*

No. Name Years Size Comment 11 Jason Blake 1 5-10, 180 If injury heals, a key to the fourth line. 22 Ian Laperriere 6 6-1, 197 Stopper-line job to his liking. 21 Bryan Smolinski 7 6-1, 202 Return to 1993-94 Numbers would make Kings happy. 15 Jozef Stumpel 9 6-3, 216 Palffy notwithstanding, the Kings' offensive key.

*--*

RIGHT WINGS

*--*

No. Name Years Size Comment 29 Brad Chartrand 0 5-11, 185 Bench press of 335 ties with McKenna as best. 27 Glen Murray 8 6-3, 222 Back after injury with incentive-laden contract. 33 Ziggy Palffy 5 5-10, 183 Kings expect 40 goals. 32 Scott Thomas 2 6-2, 200 Scorer in AHL. NHL? 12 Marko Tuomainen 1 6-3, 203 Real free-agent find for stopping role.

*--*

LEFT WINGS

*--*

No. Name Years Size Comment 10 Donald Audette 10 5-8, 184 Big year, big money for free-agent-to-be. 42 Dan Bylsma 4 6-2, 209 Defense keeps him around. 23 Craig Johnson 5 6-2, 197 Speed an asset to stopping line. 7 Steve McKenna 3 6-8, 255 With Matt Johnson gone, he becomes enforcer. 20 Luc Robitaille 13 6-1, 205 39-goal resurgence would be tough to repeat. 9 Vladimir Tsyplako 4 6-1, 197 After subpar offensive year, a fourth-liner.

*--*

DEFENSEMEN

*--*

No. Name Years Size Comment 5 Aki Berg 3 6-3, 215 Back in the U.S. after season in Finland. 4 Rob Blake 10 6-4, 220 Captain exudes leadership after troubled season. 43 Philippe Boucher 7 6-2, 214 Injured and uncertain. 26 Rich Brennan 4 6-2, 205 Waiver-draft pickup provides depth. 65 Dion Darling 0 6-3, 222 Fight-a-game exhibition play impressed coaches. 3 Garry Galley 14 6-0, 207 Summer regimen, new coach pay off big. 2 Frantisek Kaberle 0 6-1, 185 Draft choice was offensive defenseman in Europe. 8 Jere Karalahti 0 6-2, 210 Must get into U.S. to prove he's as good as advertised. 44 Jaroslav Modry 1 6-2, 210 Takes advantage of Norstrom being out. 14 Mattias Norstrom 6 6-2, 201 Blake needs unsigned partner to be as good as he can be. 6 Sean O'Donnell 5 6-3, 230 Teams with Berg in teeth-rattling duo.

*--*

GOALTENDERS

*--*

No. Name Years Size Comment 35 Stephane Fiset 10 6-1, 198 Summertime work pays off. 1 Jamie Storr 5 6-2, 198 Fought injuries, had four shutouts last season.

*--*

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