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Will this finally be the year the Sharks win the Stanley Cup?

NHL PREVIEW / WESTERN CONFERENCE

The Sharks look poised to finish at the top of the Western Conference, but San Jose has a history of falling flat in the playoffs. The Red Wings and Canucks should finish at the top of their respective divisions.

October 05, 2010|By Helene Elliott

Power play: 14.6% (28th). Penalty killing: 84.5% (sixth).

Team goals-against average: 2.34 (third).

Leading scorer: Wojtek Wolski 23-42—65.

Outlook: Dave Tippett took over behind the bench nine days before the season started and was voted the NHL's top coach. He installed discipline, energy and a smart system that makes the most of the team's speed and two-way talents. Wolski and Lee Stempniak (a team-leading 28 goals) blossomed last season and defenseman Keith Yandle is progressing well. Center Kyle Turris, drafted third overall in 2007, appears ready to make an impact. Free agent Ray Whitney should help their power play. The goaltending figures to be safe with Ilya Bryzgalov, who ranked among the NHL leaders last season with a 2.29 goals-against average and .920 save percentage in 69 games.

Nashville Predators

2009-10 record: 47-29-6, 100 points.

Power play: 16.4% (24th). Penalty killing: 77.1% (28th).

Team goals-against average: 2.66 (14th).

Leading scorer: Patric Hornqvist 30-21—51.

Outlook: They always find a way to be competitive despite their small payroll and small stature. Losing defenseman Dan Hamhuis to free agency will hurt but they still have the considerable talents of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, smooth skaters who can control the tempo of a game. Signing Matthew Lombardi, a solid, two-way center who scored 19 goals and 53 points for Phoenix last season, was a good move. They'll scratch and claw and be in the hunt.

Colorado Avalanche

2009-10 record: 43-30-9, 95 points.

Power play: 18.1% (15th). Penalty killing: 80.2% (21st).

Team goals-against average: 2.74 (17th).

Leading scorer: Paul Stastny 20-59—79.

Outlook: The Avalanche was a huge surprise last season, though a late-season fade removed some of the luster. Center Matt Duchene was the NHL's top-scoring rookie with 24 goals and 55 points, and fellow newcomer T.J. Galiardi added 15 goals and 39 points. Right wing Chris Stewart scored a career-best 28 goals. But Peter Mueller (13 goals, 37 points) is out indefinitely after suffering a concussion during training camp, and tough guy David Koci will miss the first few weeks of the season because of a broken jaw. They don't have much depth if one of their big guys gets hurt.

Calgary Flames

2009-10 record: 40-32-10, 90 points.

Power play: 16.0% (26th). Penalty killing: 82.3% (15th).

Team goals-against average: 2.45 (sixth).

Leading scorer: Jarome Iginla 32-37—69.

Outlook: The Flames were the NHL's lowest-scoring team last season, with 204 goals, and they've done nothing to help change that. They re-signed Olli Jokinen, who was a bust in his first term with the team, and winger Alex Tanguay, who had career lows in goals (10) and points (37) last season with Tampa Bay. Miikka Kiprusoff played 73 games, second only to Martin Brodeur's 77 for New Jersey, and posted exceptional numbers (2.31, .920). He won't get much help from his offense.

Anaheim Ducks

2009-10 record: 39-32-11, 89 points.

Power play: 21.0% (fifth). Penalty killing: 79.3% (24th).

Team goals-against average: 2.92 (23rd).

Leading scorer: Corey Perry 27-49—76.

Outlook: They're loaded up front. Perry is always combative. New captain Ryan Getzlaf has recovered from the ankle injury that slowed him the second half. Teemu Selanne, who turned 40 in July, came back after an injury-filled season. Fellow Finn Saku Koivu returned, too, and Bobby Ryan is under contract for five years and $25.5 million, which could be a bargain based on his production of 66 goals the last two seasons. But defense was their weakness last season and will be again, though it will be interesting to follow the development of 18-year-old Cam Fowler. Poised, smart and blessed with great hockey vision, he will make several teams regret they passed on him before the Ducks picked him 12th. The Ducks will have great nights and ugly nights with little margin for error.

Minnesota Wild

2009-10 record: 38-36-8, 84 points.

Power play: 19.1% (10th). Penalty killing: 82.7% (14th).

Team goals-against average: 2.87 (21st).

Leading scorer: Mikko Koivu 22-49—71.

Outlook: The 409-game sellout streak that began with the Wild's NHL debut in 2000 ended during a preseason game, a reflection on the economy, the tedium of training camp and fans' disappointment with a team that just can't get over the hump. Switching from longtime coach Jacques Lemaire's defense-first-last-and-only style to new Coach Todd Richards' up-tempo style didn't get them back into the playoffs. Backup goalie Josh Harding injured his knee in camp, leading the Wild to sign Jose Theodore less than a week before the season opener in Finland.

Dallas Stars

2009-10 record: 37-31-14, 88 points.

Power play: 18.6% (12th). Penalty killing: 77.4% (27th).

Team goals-against average: 2.92 (22nd).

Leading scorer: Brad Richards 24-67—91.

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