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Kings preview: Expectations are high but justified

A look at the projected lines and defense pairs heading into the season opener.

October 06, 2011|By Helene Elliott
  • Newcomers Ethan Moreau, left, and Simon Gagne celebrate a goal during a preseason game against the Hamburg Freezers at O2 World Arena.
Newcomers Ethan Moreau, left, and Simon Gagne celebrate a goal during a… (Joern Pollex / Bongarts…)

Acquiring Mike Richards gave the Kings two scoring centers and great credibility. Signing Simon Gagne should remedy their scoring problems, though they might need another scoring winger later. Drew Doughty played only one exhibition game after signing an eight-year, $56-million contract, leaving his fitness in question. If he and the Kings get a good start this team can make noise in the West. Expectations for them are high but justified.

Projected lines

First line

12, Simon Gagne, left wing

10, Mike Richards, center

23, Dustin Brown, right wing

Gagne and Richards played together in Philadelphia. A lot of varied and good elements here.

Second line

25, Dustin Penner, left wing

11, Anze Kopitar, center

14, Justin Williams, right wing

Kopitar and Williams look fine after surgery. Penner will miss sit out the opener because of a lower-body injury.*

Third line

15, Brad Richardson, left wing

28, Jarret Stoll, center

47, Trent Hunter, right wing

Stoll is among the NHL's top faceoff men. Hunter earned a contract after coming to camp on a tryout. Richardson brings energy.

Fourth line

13, Kyle Clifford, left wing

22, Trevor Lewis, center

17, Ethan Moreau, right wing

Clifford is rugged but can play. Lewis is steady. Moreau brings experience.

*Tentative reshuffled lines: Gagne-Kopitar-Williams; Richardson-Richards-Brown; Scott Parse-Stoll-Hunter; Clifford-Lewis Moreau

Projected defense pairs

First pair

33, Willie Mitchell

8, Drew Doughty

A balanced duo, with Mitchell providing muscle and Doughty taking chances offensively.

Second pair

3, Jack Johnson

7, Rob Scuderi

Another balanced pair. But Johnson must improve on last season's minus-21 rating.

Third pair

27, Alec Martinez

2, Matt Greene

Greene is fearless, Martinez has mobility, scoring potential.

Goaltending

32, Jonathan Quick

(2.24 goals-against average, .918 save percentage) Ranked sixth in the NHL in GAA and shutouts (six).

45, Jonathan Bernier

(2.48, .913) Should push Quick in the best possible way.

Also worth noting

Spares: The reserves are enforcer Kevin Westgarth, Scott (unfulfilled promise) Parse and defenseman Davis Drewiske. Defenseman Jake Muzzin is on injured reserve. Colin Fraser is on the non-roster list, a designation for players who did not pass a training camp physical.

Special teams: The Kings' power play ranked 21st in the NHL last season at 16.1% and must become less predictable and more potent. Gagne and Richards should replace the team-leading nine power-play goals scored by Ryan Smyth, who requested a trade to Edmonton. The penalty killing, fourth in the NHL at 85.5% efficiency, figures to be solid again.

Who's new: Left wings Simon Gagne and Ethan Moreau, centers Mike Richards and Colin Fraser, right wing Trent Hunter.

Who's gone: Center Michal Handzus, left wings Ryan Smyth and Alexei Ponikarovsky, right wing Wayne Simmonds, defenseman Peter Harrold.

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