Power play: 23.6% (fifth). Penalty killing: 79.7% (23rd).
Leading scorer: Ryan Getzlaf, 25-66.
Outlook: They had to trade Pronger to Philadelphia to boost their anemic offense, getting winger Joffrey Lupul, promising defenseman Luca Sbisa and two first-round picks. It was a good move but it depleted their muscle on defense, especially after bruiser Francois Beauchemin priced himself out of their budget and left as a free agent. James Wisniewski is a heavy hitter but doesn't inspire fear like Pronger does. Scott Niedermayer, still smooth at 36, will have to play at least the 26:55 he averaged last season.
Bobby Ryan, called up from the minors in mid-November, led rookies in scoring with 31 goals and 57 points in 64 games, and the first line of Ryan with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry compares well to any top trio. Signing free agent Saku Koivu to center for fellow Finn Teemu Selanne should solve the secondary scoring problem. They might trade goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere for an impact defenseman, if they can.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
2008-09 record: 41-31-10=92 points.
Power play: 12.7% (30th). Penalty killing: 82.1% (13th).
Leading scorer: Rick Nash, 40-39.
Outlook: They made the playoffs for the first time last season only to be dismissed by Detroit in four games. Their real victory was in re-signing Nash for eight years and $62.4 million. That said he believes in the franchise's future, and that's a strong statement. With Nash, rookie of the year Steve Mason in goal (2.29 goals-against average, .916 save percentage and 10 shutouts) and 19-year-old winger Nikita Filatov they have a strong base. Signing defensive specialist Samuel Pahlsson gives them an anchor for their checking line. To really make noise they've got to get more out of a power play that was the league's worst last season.
ST. LOUIS BLUES
2008-09 record: 41-31-10=92 points.
Power play: 20.5% (eighth). Penalty killing: 83.3% (third).
Leading scorer: Brad Boyes, 33-39.
Outlook: They clawed out of the cellar to finish sixth, overcoming a series of injuries that would have doomed a lesser team and daunted a less intense coach than Andy Murray. They should regain Paul Kariya (hip) and Erik Johnson (knee) and have Andy McDonald (broken ankle) for the full season. Youngsters David Backes (31 goals), Patrik Berglund (21 goals, 47 points), David Perron (50 points) and T.J. Oshie (14 goals in 57 games) have another year's experience and poise. Chris Mason (2.41, .916) had a solid finish.
2008-09 record: 34-37-11=79 points.
Power play: 19.2% (14th). Penalty killing: 82.9% (seventh).
Leading scorer: Anze Kopitar, 27-39.
Outlook: After a mid-February shootout loss that left the Kings four points out of a playoff spot, a reporter asked team captain Dustin Brown if it had felt like a playoff game. Brown, then in his fifth season as a King, smiled. "Obviously, I've never been in one at this level," he said.
He might have to wait one more season. Maybe not if Jonathan Quick's 2.48 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in 44 games weren't flukes. And if Jarret Stoll can drive an effective second line and Justin Williams can revert to his 30-goal form after two injury-plagued seasons.
Helene Elliott's NHL team-by-team preview
Penguins have lost key players and Flyers gained defenseman Chris Pronger. Ducks should make playoffs. Kings are on the bubble.
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