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Antti Niemi #31 of the San Jose Sharks in action during their preseason game against the Anaheim Ducks at HP Pavilion on September 24, 2010 in San Jose, California. (Ezra Shaw/2010 Getty Images)
Antti Niemi #31 of the San Jose Sharks in action during their preseason game against the Anaheim Ducks at HP Pavilion on September 24, 2010 in San Jose, California. (Ezra Shaw/2010 Getty Images)

Pacific Division preview Add to ...

Anaheim Ducks

Last season Fourth in division, missed playoffs.

How they've changed Scott Niedermayer's retirement leaves them vulnerable on defence, as does James Wisniewski's departure to the New York Islanders after a contract dispute. Toni Lydman and Paul Mara don't strike quite the same amount of fear in the heart, do they?

Dallas Stars

Last season Fifth in division, missed playoffs.

How they've changed The rebuild is in full swing after the departures of Marty Turco (to Chicago) and Mike Modano (to Detroit). Injury-prone Atlanta castoff Kari Lehtonen tries to establish himself as new No. 1 in goal, with Andrew Raycroft slotted as the backup and agitator Adam Burish the only meaningful addition up front.

Los Angeles Kings

Last season Third in division, lost conference quarter-final to Vancouver.

How they've changed Runners-up in the Ilya Kovalchuk free-agent sweepstakes, the Kings could land only Alexei Ponikarovsky to replace the departed Alexander Frolov, leaving them thin up front but deep on a blueline that boasts emerging stars Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson.

Phoenix Coyotes

Last season Second in division, lost conference quarter-final to Detroit.

How they've changed Ageless winger Ray Whitney brings his scoring touch to the desert, while Eric Belanger replaces Matthew Lombardi at centre, and Lee Stempniak is back for a full season after a 14-goals-in-18-games cameo last year. Otherwise, the plot continues to revolve around unsettled ownership issues and the long-term viability of the franchise.

San Jose Sharks

Last season First in division, lost conference final to Chicago.

How they've changed Deploying a new two-headed goalie monster, Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki replace KHL-bound Evgeni Nabokov. Retired Rob Blake's leadership and presence will be missed on a suddenly vulnerable-looking blueline.

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