NHL: Western Conference Profiles 05 Oct 11

Following are brief profiles of the 15 teams in the Western Conference ahead of the 2011-12 National Hockey League (NHL) season.
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CENTRAL DIVISION
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Head coach: Joel Quenneville
2010-11 Record: 44-29-9
Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane provide Chicago with a scoring threat that should command plenty of respect from the opposition while Duncan Keith, former Norris Trophy winner as top defenseman, gives the 2010 Stanley Cup champions a solid force on the blueline.
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COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Head coach: Scott Arniel
2010-11 Record: 34-35-13
In desperate need of goals, the Blue Jackets traded for Jeff Carter, who led the Philadelphia Flyers in scoring last season and should complement Rick Nash, the former Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy winner as top goal scorer, up front.
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DETROIT RED WINGS
Head coach: Mike Babcock
2010-11 Record: 47-25-10
A model of consistency, the Red Wings have not missed the playoffs since 1990 and, despite the offseason retirements of forward Kris Draper and goalie Chris Osgood, Detroit has lots of talent and will contend for the Central division title
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NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Head coach: Barry Trotz
2010-11 Record: 44-27-11
Shea Weber, a top defenseman who was awarded a record $7.5 million one-year contract by an arbitrator in the offseason, returns to help the Predators build on their franchise-best second round defeat in the NHL playoffs last season.
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ST. LOUIS BLUES
Head coach: Davis Payne
2010-11 Record: 38-33-11
Blues will need consistency in net from Jaroslav Halak if they hope to end a two-season playoff drought and the arrivals of Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott during the offseason give St. Louis some much-needed veteran presence up front.
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NORTHWEST DIVISION
CALGARY FLAMES
Head coach: Brent Sutter
2010-11 Record: 41-29-12
Jarome Iginla will once again be counted on to provide the bulk of scoring for a Flames team that has missed the playoffs for two straight seasons. Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester will need to step up his game after the offseason loss of Robyn Regehr, who was a fixture on the Calgary blue line for over a decade.
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COLORADO AVALANCHE
Head coach: Joe Sacco
2010-11 Record: 30-44-8
Avalanche will be relying on a youthful core that includes Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog up front while the acquisition of goalie Semyon Varlamov should help a team that allowed a league-high 288 goals last season.
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EDMONTON OILERS
Head coach: Tom Renney
2010-11 Record: 25-45-12
The return of winger Ryan Smyth gives the rebuilding Oilers a veteran presence that should help a crop of youthful players, including 2010 top draft pick Taylor Hall, keep the team from a third straight last-place overall finish.
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MINNESOTA WILD
Head coach: Mike Yeo
2010-11 Record: 39-35-8
Three straight seasons of missing the playoffs convinced the Wild to revamp their lineup and the additions of forwards Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi could provide a spark for a team that was among the lowest scoring in theNHL last season.
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VANCOUVER CANUCKS
Head coach: Alain Vigneault
2010-11 Record: 54-19-9
Pressure is on goalie Roberto Luongo and forwards Henrik and Daniel Sedin to give the franchise another shot at claiming a maiden Stanley Cup a year after winning the Presidents’ Trophy as the best team in the regular and then losing the decisive game of the Stanley Cup finals on home ice.
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PACIFIC DIVISION
ANAHEIM DUCKS
Head coach: Randy Carlyle
2010-11 Record: 47-30-5
Team expected to challenge for the Pacific Division title and rely heavily on Corey Perry after his breakout season where he won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player and Rocket Richard Trophy as the top goal scorer.
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DALLAS STARS
Head coach: Glen Gulutzan
2010-11 Record: 42-29-11
The loss of Brad Richards to free agency leaves a glaring hole in the Dallas offense and puts some added pressure on Kari Lehtonen, who played in a career-high 69 games for the Stars last season, to provide stability in goal.
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LOS ANGELES KINGS
Head coach: Terry Murray
2010-11 Record: 46-30-6
Acquisitions of Mike Richards Simon Gagne give the Kings plenty of scoring prowess but getting Olympic gold medallist and Norris Trophy finalist Drew Doughty signed to a contract will be key to their success.
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PHOENIX COYOTES
Head coach: Dave Tippett
2010-11 Record: 43-26-13
The loss of Ilya Bryzgalov creates a question mark in goal and leaves veteran netminder Mike Smith with big shoes to fill. Coyotes will rely on Shane Doan for veteran leadership in the midst on an uncertain ownership and arena situation.
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SAN JOSE SHARKS
Head coach: Todd McLellan
2010-11 Record: 48-25-9
After losing in the Western Conference final for the second straight year, the Sharks will be hoping the acquisitions of forward Martin Havlat and defenceman Brent Burns will help them finally break through to the Stanley Cup final.