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By Matt Canamucio, NHL Editor

(Sports Network) - Following their third consecutive season out of the playoffs, something had to give with the Los Angeles Kings.

In April former Sharks general manager Dean Lombardi took over the duties in LA, as he replaced the departed Dave Taylor. Lombardi then hired Marc Crawford to man his bench, and on draft day pulled the trigger on a deal that sent Pavol Demitra to Minnesota for prospect Patrick O'Sullivan.

Lombardi also obtained goaltender Dan Cloutier from the Canucks, inked former King Rob Blake and brought in both Scott Thornton and Alyn McCauley, who both were with him in San Jose.

Lombardi was given a mission to get the Kings back into playoff form, and he began it with an aggressive approach. Now it's a matter of Crawford, who won the Cup with Colorado in 1996, putting it all together with Xs and Os.

FORWARDS - While McCauley and Thornton were nice additions, the Kings didn't bring in any big-time offensive weapons. At the same time, proven commodities like Luc Robitaille and Jeremy Roenick are gone.

Overall this is a team whose leading scorer was a defenseman, and the top- scoring forward was Craig Conroy with only 66 points (22g, 44a). Conroy has gone from being a nice checking centerman to a legitimate point producer. That said, is he a prototypical first-line center? Probably not, but it's the case here.

Alexander Frolov and Mike Cammalleri are both 24-years-old and both were among the team's top five scorers. Frolov enters his fourth NHL season, and he has progressed each year so far. Cammalleri, meanwhile, is a smallish guy, but his offensive instincts and tools lend to the notion of being a 30-40 goal guy.

O'Sullivan was selected in the second round by Minnesota in 2003, and his first professional season in 05-06 was a dazzling one. With the Houston Aeros of the AHL last season he tallied 47 goals in 78 games, giving hope that he might be the offensive weapon this team needs.

Derek Armstrong and Eric Belanger are solid second-liners, while Thornton and Sean Avery provide much-needed grit on the checking unit.

DEFENSE - Blake was brought back to the Kings after spending the last half decade with Colorado. He was once the prototypical NHL defenseman, and he remains able to contribute in all areas of the ice at the age of 36. Last season with the Avs he tallied 14 goals and 37 assists in 81 games.

Blake could very well play alongside Lubomir Visnovsky, who thrived in the open, new NHL in 05-06. Visnovsky posted 17 goals and 50 assists and was the fourth-highest scoring blueliner in the NHL. His stats included 10 power-play goals.

Captain Mattias Norstrom and the dependable Aaron Miller also return. Norstrom was the club's defensive anchor, and he has been durable throughout his career with the club. Tim Gleason and Brent Sopel will likely round out the corps.

GOALTENDING - Dan Cloutier spent four seasons as the Vancouver Canucks' primary netminder, although his 05-06 campaign was cut short due to knee surgery. Cloutier has been a solid, not spectacular backstop during the regular season but poor play beyond that is partially to blame for the Canucks' playoff failures in recent years.

http://146.145.120.3/default.asp?c=hockeynews&page=nhl/news/adn4042366.htm
 
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