2011-12 LA Kings Preview
A new season always means a new start and the Kings are ready to begin their journey to the top. They have made it to the playoffs two years in a row, and with each new season, the expectations have risen exponentially. Multiple trades over the summer have put the Kings in the running for a Stanley Cup this year.
The Kings ended the 2010-11 season seventh in the Western conference, with 98 points, losing to the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the playoffs.
There was a lot of shuffling on the offensive line because of multiple trades. The summer also gave what many players needed most: time to recover. Injuries plagued the team but summer gave them the much-needed time to rehabilitate.
Center Anze Kopitar, 24, wasn't able to play in the playoffs last season because of a broken right ankle. Now that he has recovered, Kopitar will be key to the Kings offense. He scored 25 goals and had 48 assists, totaling 73 points last season.
Justin Williams, a 12-year league veteran, who turned 30 on Oct. 4, is poised to return to the ice. Williams had shoulder surgery this past summer after an injury in March.
Trades over the summer have brought Mike Richards, Simon Gagne and Ethan Moreau, adding more depth to the lineup, which will no doubt boost the offense.
"You add guys like Mike Richards, Simon Gagne and Ethan Moreau; those guys three guys in particular have been leaders on teams they’ve been on," head coach Terry Murray told ESPN.com. "We got good character and good players brought into the locker room. It's pretty exciting; it raises the expectations for the hockey club and we're all looking forward to that."
Center Mike Richards, 26, previously played with Simon Gagne on the Philadelphia Flyers. Richards was part of the 2010 Olympic Gold Medal Canadian Hockey Team, along with Drew Doughty.
Kings Captain Dustin Brown and Center Jarret Stoll have consistently had a positive impact. Last season, Brown scored 28 goals and had 29 assists while Stoll racked up 43 points (20 goals and 23 assists).
Left winger Kyle Clifford is also ready for his second season in the league, since he spent the majority of his summer working out in his hometown of Ayr, Ontario, Canada.
The trades didn't affect the defensive line and all players from last season are back.
Now that Drew Doughty signed an eight-year, $56 million contract with the Kings, fans can breathe a sign of relief. Even though last season wasn't Doughty's best, he is still a high-scoring powerhouse defenseman with versatility and will most likely have a huge impact this season. Doughty, who was drafted second overall in 2008, has played 239 games, scored 33 goals and added 93 assists in his three years in the NHL.
Rob Scuderi, who is entering his eighth season in the league, and Willie Mitchell, a 13-year veteran of the league, are both solid defenseman.
Mitchell will be paired with Doughty, whom he began playing with since last season, after he was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks. The six-foot-three-inch, 208-pound defenseman had a rough 2010-11 season, suffering a wrist injury in November, a knee injury in December, and a cut on his face in March that needed 53 stitches.
Johnson (seen left), acquired by the Kings in 2005, played all 82 games last season and tallied 42 points, with 5 goals and 37 assists.
"He took some big strides early in the first half, was one of the top scoring defenseman in the league," said head coach Murray. "I thought his play without puck was really good. He tailed off in the second half. That plus-minus started to build up again.
"To me, when I look at his game, he got away from being a hard player to play against in the sense of being physical."
Both Jonathans (Quick and Bernier) are good at what they do. Quick will most likely continue to take the lead but Bernier shouldn't be written off as the backup goalie.
Jonathan Quick, 25, played 61 games last season, with a .918 save percentage, 35 wins and 22 losses. Jonathan Bernier, 23, had a .913 save percentage, 11 wins and 8 losses.
C Mike Richards, Age 26 (From Philadelphia Flyers)
LW Simon Gagne, 31 (Tampa Bay Lightning)
C Colin Fraser, 26 (Edmonton Oilers)
LW Ethan Moreau, 36 (Columbus Blue Jackets)
RW Trent Hunter, 31 (New York Islanders)
RW Wayne Simmonds, 23 (To Philadelphia Flyers)
LW Ryan Smyth, 35 (Edmonton Oilers)
LWAlexei Ponikarovsky, 31 (Carolina Hurricanes)
C Brayden Schenn, 20 (Philadelphia Flyers)
C Michal Handzus, 34 (San Jose Sharks)
If the Kings can handle the pressure (which I think they can), they will go very far this season. While last year the team was one of the younger ones in the league, this season the Kings are a group of guys who have years of experience. Now that they’ve had their second taste of being part of the playoff race, the Kings now have the hunger (and talent) to go for the Stanley Cup.
After beating the New York Rangers 3-2 in Stockholm, Sweden, the Kings' second game is against the Buffalo Sabres in Berlin before heading back to the United States.
Their home opener is on Oct. 18 against the St. Louis Blues.
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