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2010-11 Kings NHL Preview

Sara Ramsey, Sarah Sotoodeh |
September 29, 2010 | 12:23 p.m. PDT

Staff Writers

The boys are back in town.

The Los Angeles Kings will kick off their season Oct. 9 and hope to pick up right where they left off.

Last season, the Kings made their first appearance in the playoffs since 2002 to the surprise of Kings and hockey fans alike. Although they exited in the first round, succumbing to Vancouver, this young team showed major signs of life.

L.A. finished sixth in the Western Conference and third in the Pacific, going 46-27-9.

Defense

Defenseman Drew Doughty is the undisputed king of the Kings. With 16 goals, 43 assists and 59 points last season, Doughty led the team by example and assumed No. 1 status. 

At only 20 years old, he has already helped Canada win a gold medal at the 2009 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and was a finalist for the James Norris Trophy, awarded to the top defenseman of the season. Coming into his third season with the Kings (a team he has always dreamt of playing for because he idolizes Wayne Gretzky), Doughty has yet to even reach his peak potential.

“To have a player that is quite possibly one of the best defenseman in the league is great for the organization,” captain Dustin Brown said about Doughty.

The first time Doughty met new acquisition Willie Mitchell from the Canucks, he offered Mitchell his No. 8 jersey out of respect (Mitchell wore No. 8 for four season with the Canucks). Doughty and Mitchell are now working together to create a strong and cohesive defense.

Mitchell, a 14-year league veteran, was picked up in August by the Kings as an unrestricted free agent. Although he was sidelined with a concussion and missed last season's playoffs, he has been cleared to play and is ready to bring his experience and skill to L.A.

With three seasons’ experience, Jack Johnson adds more youth and depth to the Kings defense. He racked up 8 goals and 28 assists with 36 points last season and looks to have a promising year ahead of him.

OFFENSE

Anze Kopitar, 23, is poised to steal the season with a stellar performance. The 6-foot-3, 227-pound center led the Kings with 34 goals, 47 assists and 81 points last season. He says he spent the summer working out and relaxing with his girlfriend and family in Slovenia and is now ready to get back to the rush of the game.

With last season's success there is more pressure than ever to step up and do better. With a strong defense behind him, Kopitar should be able to rise to the occasion and produce a 100-points or better season

Dustin Brown, 25, is another threat on the front line. The right wing from Ithaca, NY, scored 24 goals with 32 assists and 56 points in 2009.

Rounding out the offense is Jarret Stoll (16 goals, 31 assists), Michal Handzus (20 goals, 22 assists) and Ryan Smyth (22 goals, 31 assists). Smyth will join Kopitar and Brown on the first line, a move that coach Terry Murray believes “will bring scoring and a hard-nosed attitude.”

Alexei Ponikarovsky, the former Maple Leafs right-winger, is expected to fill the gap left by the departure of long-time winger Alexander Frolov.

GOALIES

Jonathan Quick, 24, proved his namesake last season, breaking the franchise record with 39 wins -- he also had a .907 save percentage. 

Quick is the top choice for the net this season but will be sharing some time with Jonathan Bernier. Erik Ersberg is also fighting for the top spot, although he will most likely serve as the No. 3 guy. 

The battle between the three men will only raise the level of competition and hopefully prevent the same mistakes that led to the Kings being knocked out of the playoffs after leading the Vancouver series 2-1.

The Canucks will host the Kings on Oct. 9 in what will surely be a physical game in which the Kings will be out for redemption. 

The experience of the veterans combined with the tenacity of the younger players may prove to be just the formula needed for success. The Kings had a small taste of the magic that is the Stanley Cup playoffs and now they’re hungry for more.

To reach writers Sara Ramsey and Sarah Sotoodeh, click here and here.

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