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As is Anaheim's bid for a fifth straight playoff appearance.
LAST SEASON 34-37-11 (14th in West)
KEY ADDITIONS D Rob Scuderi, LW Ryan Smyth
KEY LOSS D Kyle Quincey
Despite finishing last in the division for the second straight year, the Kings believe they're on the verge of a breakthrough. Management has been patient, and the players feel that they've had the opportunity to grow as a unit. "In the past we've overhauled every year, and it's hard to build anything that way," says 24-year-old captain Dustin Brown.
Instead, this summer was about augmenting a promising young nucleus with two carefully targeted veterans. Rob Scuderi, fresh off winning the Stanley Cup with the Penguins, bolsters a precocious defense led by Drew Doughty, who had a remarkable rookie season playing in all situations and averaging a team-high 23:49 on the ice. And the acquisition of 33-year-old winger Ryan Smyth brings grit and a leave-it-all-out-there attitude (as well as 30-goal potential) that exemplifies the consistency such players as gifted winger Alexander Frolov and 22-year-old first-line center Anze Kopitar (below) need to develop.
"The influence [of Scuderi and Smyth] will be tremendous," coach Terry Murray says. Murray's right; the Kings are ready to leave the cellar behind.