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Questions remain about San Jose's third and fourth lines, but the Sharks' formidable depth along the blue line—Wilson says the team has as many as nine NHL-caliber defensemen heading into camp—should help plug any holes.
COACH Terry Murray (4th season)
LAST SEASON 46-30-6 (7th in West); lost in first round to Sharks
KEY ADDITIONS LW Simon Gagne, C Mike Richards
KEY LOSSES C Michal Handzus, RW Wayne Simmonds, LW Ryan Smyth
The addition of center Mike Richards, a two-time 30-goal scorer and one of hockey's best two-way forwards, and veteran sniper Simmon Gagne boosts a Kings offense that scored only 219 goals in 2010--11, tied for fewest in the West. The expectation is that Richards, the former Flyers captain who came to L.A. last June as part of a four-player trade, and Gagne, a free agent from Tampa Bay, will quickly recapture the chemistry they built as linemates in Philadelphia in 2008--09, when they combined to score 64 goals.
Numbers like that would give the Kings one of the most balanced corps of forwards in the conference, with two viable scoring lines; the other is led by star center Anze Kopitar (below) and winger Dustin Brown. The Kings' defense, which surrendered the third-fewest goals in the West, remains intact—including standout blueliner Drew Doughty, who ended a protracted holdout last Thursday by signing an eight-year, $56-million deal. This is a team with a chance to join the NHL's elite. "We still need to be [better at] five-on-five scoring," says coach Terry Murray. "[But] adding Mike Richards and Simon Gagné ... will help us be a better hockey club right away."