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Western Conference: Pacific
Michael Farber
October 08, 2007
SAN JOSE
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October 08, 2007

Western Conference: Pacific

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KEY LOSSES D Jon Klemm, C Eric Lindros, LW Ladislav Nagy, D Darryl Sydor

At their worst the Stars have looked like a Picasso painting: interesting, sure, but not all the parts seemed to match. Dallas's freewheeling ways--big trades and flashy free agents--are history even if they did help bring the Stars their only Cup, in 1999. Like San Jose, and to a lesser extent Anaheim, Dallas will depend more heavily on a homegrown group of solid if not high-impact youngsters such as goalie Mike Smith, defenseman Trevor Daley and wingers Loui Eriksson, Jussi Jokinen and Antti Miettinen. Other than possibly Smith, a rangy goalie who will back up the still formidable Marty Turco, there is no future All-Star in the group.

The Stars' problems are a lack of scorers and a distinct generation gap. Dallas has not produced a high-end scorer since center Mike Modano, while the chasm between the youth movement and the surfeit of veterans can't be bridged by Brenden Morrow, the 28-year-old captain, alone. The Stars' core is thick with thirtysomething players: Modano, Turco, forwards Stu Barnes, Jeff Halpern and Jere Lehtinen, and defensemen Philippe Boucher and Sergei Zubov. "I'm not worried about the 30- and 32-year-olds," says coach Dave Tippett, "I'm worried about the 36- and 37-year-olds."

LOS ANGELES

Kings

LAST SEASON 27-41-14 (14th in West)

KEY ADDITIONS LW Kyle Calder, C Michal Handzus, D Jon Klemm, LW Ladislav Nagy, D Tom Preissing, D Brad Stuart

KEY LOSSES G Mathieu Garon, D Aaron Miller

In the 40 years of their undistinguished history, the Kings have never developed a franchise goaltender. They are on the cusp of it now. Jonathan Bernier, a 19-year-old who made 26 saves last Saturday in L.A.'s 4-1 season-opening win over the Ducks in London, might get the chance--a risky but legitimate option after the Kings let Mathieu Garon go in free agency and demoted Dan Cloutier, leaving only journeymen Jean-S´┐Żbastien Aubin and Jason LaBarbera as alternatives. "When teams have shot against us, we've gotten nervous," says G.M. Dean Lombardi. "It's been like a Pavlovian response. That's got to change."

Once the Kings master their bedeviling goaltending situation, watch out. Left wing Alexander Frolov and center Michael Cammalleri combined for 69 goals last season, but they weren't even the most impressive Los Angeles forwards. Anze Kopitar, who had 20 goals and 61 points in 72 games as a rookie, soon will be among the dominant centers in the Western Conference. When Lombardi finally turns around this slumbering franchise, the updraft will be sudden and spectacular. Say, in 2009-10.

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