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2011/2012 NHL Pacific Division Gambling + Handicapping Preview

NHL Betting – Pacific Division Preview

After falling short of heightened expectations a year ago, the Los Angeles Kings made a couple of key offseason moves that should put them in contention to compete with the San Jose Sharks for the Pacific division crown this season.

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Both teams retooled in the offseason and feel they have strong enough rosters to contend for a Stanley Cup this year, and with the rest of the division apparently content to battle for the playoff spots in the Western Conference, it will likely end up as a two-team race for first place in the Pacific.

On The Rise: Los Angeles Kings

With so much young talent, there was a lot of pressure on the Kings to do big things in the 2010-11 season. But following a seventh place finish and early playoff exit, general manager Dean Lombardi decided to add even more skill up front, and it should pay off.

In addition to trading for former Philadelphia Flyers’ captain Mike Richards, Lombardi added winger Simon Gagne, another skilled offensive playmaker. Signing defenseman Drew Doughty to a long-term deal was a major priority that Lombardi was also able to take care of, and with two capable young goaltenders in Jon Quick and Jonathan Bernier, Los Angeles is set to contend for the next couple of years.

Center Anze Kopitar could break out with the presence of Richards in the lineup, and if he can stay healthy the Kings will rank among the most complete teams in the NHL.

On The Decline: Phoenix Coyotes

On the heels of consecutive playoff appearances, it appears as though the Coyotes are destined to fall in the Western Conference standings this season, which really hurts not only in terms of this year, but in regards to the future of the franchise in the desert. Phoenix couldn’t afford to keep their most valuable player in Ilya Bryzgalov, and also lost a number of key depth players including Eric Belanger, Vernon Fiddler, and Lee Stempniak.

Veteran defenseman Ed Jovanovski also exited over the summer, and the Coyotes didn’t do enough to properly address their losses. [ad-4437448]

Phoenix brought in Michael Smith and Curtis McElhinney to fill the hole left by Bryzgalov’s departure, and it is a fair assessment to project those moves won’t come close to making up for the loss of one of the top netminders in the NHL.

Projected Winner: Los Angeles Kings

The Sharks changed their approach with an attempt to shore things up in their own end by trading for Brent Burns, and also added Martin Havlat up front while parting ways with wingers Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi.

While it may work out for them in the long run in terms of competing in the playoffs, they will not have as much firepower during the regular season and that will hurt them in their battle with Los Angeles for division supremacy. The Kings added enough firepower to an already talented team to think that they should be able to finally live up to the lofty expectations that were placed on them a year ago, and they should be able to claim top spot in the Pacific.

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