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L.A. legend Dionne likes look of present-day Kings

by Dan Rosen
Marcel Dionne never made it past the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs during his 11-plus seasons in Los Angeles; but if his old team doesn't advance beyond the Western Conference Semifinals this season the "Little Beaver" would be stunned.

"I think this year is the year," Dionne told Monday from the Hockey Hall of Fame. "They haven't lost at home yet and if (Anze) Kopitar even manages 35 to 40 goals that's going to be huge for them."

Kopitar only has 4 goals through 14 games so far this season, so asking for 40 at this rate is probably a bit much. However, Dionne, who tries to watch the Kings as much as he can, is a big believer in the overall team that GM Dean Lombardi has built.

The Kings are 7-0 at home and enter Friday with 22 points, the most in the Western Conference.

"The first step was to get Kopitar and suddenly they started changing things around, being patient was the thing," Dionne said. "But, the big issue, the big turnaround is (Drew) Doughty, no doubt. What a great player. And, now Jonathan Quick seems to be the key thing. If you don't have a goalie you have some issues, but they're there. They're going to be competitive. They play a tight style of hockey right now. If they stay healthy, they're going to be tough."

Doughty has especially caught Dionne's eye. He said you can call him just a smaller version of Ray Bourque if you wanted to, but he's expecting Doughty to make his own mark just like Bourque did.

"Oh, I like him very much," Dionne said of Doughty. "This guy is very deceiving. I think he's tough and he's tough to hit. He's very smart. Steve Yzerman watched him a lot before picking him for Team Canada, so that tells you a lot. He's very mature. He passes the puck very well, doesn't mind to get in the rough stuff and he's got an excellent shot. He'll make a mark for himself."

Dionne believes Kings coach Terry Murray is also the perfect man for the job, especially in L.A.

"(He) is just a very calm guy. He fits the role for L.A.," Dionne said. "He doesn't have to worry because of all the stars around him."

Now let's go around the conference to see what else is happening this week. The teams are listed in order of where they ranked in the standings as of Friday morning:

 Los Angeles Kings (11-3-0, 22 points)

The Kings have won five straight dating back to a 5-2 win in Dallas on Oct. 28. They close out their five-game homestand Saturday against the struggling Islanders. Rookie Braydon Schenn has played eight games, one off the nine-game threshold for his entry-level contract to kick in. Schenn has been a healthy scratch the last three games. A decision on whether to keep him or send him back to the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL is pending.

 Detroit Red Wings (10-3-1, 21 points)

Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk each have points in their last 10 games and the Red Wings have won two in a row and four of five this month. They're in the middle of a season-high six-game homestand. Colorado is in Hockeytown on Saturday. Mike Babcock re-arranged the second, third and fourth lines for Thursday's game against Edmonton and the Wings won, 6-2. Jiri Hudler played on the second line with Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen, and he had his first strong game in a while.

 Vancouver Canucks (9-4-2, 20 points)

The Canucks rebounded from a 2-0 loss in Montreal with Thursday's 6-2 win in Ottawa. They close out their Eastern Canadian swing Saturday in Toronto on Hockey Night in Canada. Ryan Kesler had 2 goals in Ottawa and now has 5 points in the last four games. Interestingly, though, Keith Ballard has been a healthy scratch for the last two games. He was a big off-season addition for the Canucks' blue-line, but has been struggling since returning from a concussion.

 St. Louis Blues (9-2-3, 21 points)

David Backes signed a five-year extension Thursday, bringing some sun to what has been an otherwise cloudy week. The Blues got blitzed, 8-1, and lost standout forward T.J. Oshie to a broken ankle in Columbus on Wednesday. He's out at minimum three months after having surgery. They dropped a 3-2 decision Thursday in a shootout to Nashville. However, Backes' decision to re-up with the Blues speaks to how their young players feel about the franchise.

 Anaheim Ducks (9-7-1, 19 points)

The Ducks needed the calendar to turn in order to figure out what works best for them. They're 5-for-5 this month and have climbed way up the standings after being one of the worst teams in the League to start the season. The Ducks are doing it with a renewed confidence on defense. They've allowed only 10 goals in the five games this month and that includes the four they gave up to Nashville last Sunday. They scored five to get the win. Teemu Selanne has 18 points, almost half his age.

 Columbus Blue Jackets (9-5-0, 18 points)

Are the Blue Jackets the early-season surprise in the NHL? It's a good question because how many pundits out there had this team winning nine of its first 14 games? How many people figured Columbus would be tied with the third best defense (2.36 goals against per game) in the Western Conference by Nov. 12? And, who would have guessed the Jackets would be this successful so far without a great deal of production from captain Rick Nash (6 goals, 10 points)? Not many on all accounts.

 Chicago Blackhawks (8-9-1, 17 points)

Rarely is offense a problem for the Blackhawks, but it has been this week as they have dropped a pair of 2-1 decisions to Edmonton and Phoenix. The Blackhawks have gained only two out of a possible 10 points this month and they needed a shootout win in Atlanta to get them. Offense has been their latest area of concern, but overall the 53 goals they've allowed in run of play are the most of all 15 teams in the Western Conference. Only Buffalo and Atlanta (55 each) have allowed more.

 Minnesota Wild (7-5-2, 16 points)

After three-straight wins, the Wild put up a stinker in Atlanta on Thursday and lost, 5-1. But, maybe it's how they lost that is more concerning. The Wild did not look to be in sync on defense all night, and it doesn't help that Marek Zidlicky was back home in Minnesota nursing a leg injury. He hasn't played in the last two games. But, the beauty for the Wild is they get right back on the horse tonight in Florida. Antti Miettinen (concussion) played Thursday for the first time since Oct. 25.

 San Jose Sharks (7-5-2, 16 points)

Save for a 5-2 win against Tampa Bay, the Sharks have struggled to score this month. They have only three goals combined in their other four games. They managed just one in run of play Thursday against the Islanders. The Islanders are one of the League's worst teams when it comes to goals against. But, Joe Thornton returned from his suspension against the Isles and the Sharks got two points in a shootout win. Calgary is in town Saturday.

 Dallas Stars (8-6-0, 16 points)

The offense that scored 15 goals during a three-game winning streak has run dry in the last two outings. The Stars were shut out last Saturday in Colorado and lost, 3-1, in L.A. on Thursday. They'll look to get it going again tonight in Anaheim. Dallas committed seven minor penalties and five majors in Thursday's loss. The Kings were 2-for-5 on the power play in the third period alone. The Stars had 49 PIMs in the game.

 Colorado Avalanche (7-6-1, 15 points)

Inconsistency is plaguing the Avalanche right now. It's the old good one night, bad the next syndrome. GM Greg Sherman shook the team up slightly Thursday by making a trade with Montreal to pick up defenseman Ryan O'Byrne. He should play tonight in Columbus. Adam Foote is also getting healthy and could suit up Saturday in Detroit. Craig Anderson, out since Oct. 26 with a knee injury, has been skating but isn't on the road with the team.

 Nashville Predators (6-5-3, 15 points)

The Predators desperately needed that 3-2 shootout win Thursday against the Blues. It snapped a five-game losing streak, with all of those losses coming in regulation. They were beaten in three of those games by three goals, but easily the hardest loss to take was the 5-4 defeat in Anaheim on Sunday night. Paul Mara scored with 1.7 seconds left in regulation to give the Ducks the win. Ryan Suter missed his ninth-straight game with a lower-body injury. He at least started practicing this week.

 Phoenix Coyotes (5-5-5, 15 points)

Wednesday's 2-1 win against Chicago was big on many levels. For one, it snapped a three-game losing streak. But, perhaps when you consider the long haul, it was the first time in eight games the Coyotes won a game in which they fell behind 1-0. They were previously 0-5-2. Shane Doan is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury. The Coyotes still don't have a player with 10 points this season.

 Calgary Flames (7-7-0, 14 points)

The Flames snapped a four-game losing streak with Tuesday's 4-2 in Denver and they'll look to build on it tonight in Phoenix before going to San Jose for a game Saturday. Curtis Glencross scored 2 goals in the win against the Avalanche, giving him 7 for the season. David Moss had the winning goal, and getting him going will be big for the offense. He showed two years ago that he can be productive offensively when he had 20 goals in 81 games. He had only 8 goals in 64 games last season.

 Edmonton Oilers (4-8-2, 10 points)

The Oilers were beaten Wednesday by the Red Wings, 6-2. Taylor Hall, who played his junior hockey for the nearby Windsor Spitfires, had a big crowd on hand at Joe Louis Arena, but he went pointless with a minus-3 rating. Tom Renney will coach at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night for the first time since being fired by the Rangers midway through the 2008-09 season.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl
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