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Pacific: Coyotes busy at deadline; Stars, Sharks not

by John Kreiser
The trade deadline has come and gone, and the five Pacific Division teams are set for the home stretch after a day that saw them approach the deadline with different strategies. Some stood pat, some tinkered and one made a number of changes.

Here's a look at what each team did and how they shape up for the stretch run:

Sharks San Jose Sharks

Position: 1st in Pacific; 2nd in Western Conference

What they did:

Sharks GM Doug Wilson opted to stand pat at the deadline. He had acquired defenseman Niclas Wallin from Carolina before the Olympic break and seems content to stick with the team that hit the Olympic break on top of the Western Conference standings.

"I think it's a message we have a good team," goalie Evgeni Nabokov said. "We as players, you think what you have is good enough. If a team is near the top, they should be able to do it in the playoffs."

How they shape up: The Sharks started the post-Olympic portion of their schedule with a 4-3 loss to New Jersey in the opener of a five-game homestand. Their last 20 games are split evenly home and road, with six- and four-game road trips. They go no further east than Dallas and Minnesota.

San Jose has all but locked up the division, so the Sharks are playing for the highest playoff seed they can get. They enter Thursday with 89 points, the same as Chicago, but with two fewer wins (42-40). Expect the Sharks, who have run a shuttle between San Jose and their AHL farm team in Worcester, to do a lot of fine-tuning down the stretch.

Kings Los Angeles Kings

2nd in Pacific; 4th in Western Conference

What they did: Tinkered

With his team six weeks away from its first playoff berth since 2001-02, GM Dean Lombardi brought in some additional veteran help, acquiring center Jeff Halpern from Tampa Bay for youngster Teddy Purcell and a 2010 third-round pick, and getting forward Fredrik Modin from Columbus for a conditional 2010 seventh-round pick.

Halpern, 33, adds some grit and defensive ability. He's evolved into a role-playing center who still has a little bit of scoring ability.

"One thing Halpern does is he addresses a lot of needs," Lombardi said. "He can play center, he can play wing, he can kill penalties, he can win faceoffs. He was a guy we had targeted fairly early in the process, and we're happy to have him.

Modin, a two-time 30-goal scorer, owns a Stanley Cup ring from his time with Tampa Bay, but he had trouble staying healthy in Columbus. He was 2-2-4 in 24 games this season and hasn't played more than 50 games since 2006-07.

"He's a heavy player," Lombardi said. "He's really hard to play against below the dots. He's a smart player. He's not the fastest player in the world, but he knows where to go -- and everyone knows he can really shoot a puck."

Aside from Purcell, who was a healthy scratch on most nights, the Kings did not surrender anyone from their current roster.

How they shape up: The Kings are on an 11-1-1 roll after smoking the Stars 5-1 in Dallas on Tuesday. They have 11 of their 20 remaining games at home and don't take another trip longer than two games.

It's all but certain there will be playoff hockey in Los Angeles for the first time in eight seasons, but given the moves he made on deadline day, Lombardi is taking no chances -- and appears to have dreams of having a team that's capable of making a lengthy run, starting with a fourth-place finish that would give the Kings the home-ice edge in the opening round.

coyotes Phoenix Coyotes

Position: 3rd in Pacific; 5th in Western Conference

What they did:

Not content with his team's surprising performance through the first three-quarters of the season, Phoenix GM Don Maloney spent the day wheeling and dealing to try to jump-start a squad that hasn't looked sharp in losing its last three games.

Maloney added skill on the blue line by bringing in Mathieu Schneider, who was playing in the minors after signing with Vancouver last summer, and ex-Coyote Derek Morris from Boston for a conditional 2011 draft pick. Ironically, Maloney had dealt Morris (to the Rangers) at last season's trade deadline.

Perhaps the biggest risk was sending former first-round pick Peter Mueller and minor-league forward Kevin Porter to Colorado for forward Wojtek Wolski. Mueller has been a disappointment after a good rookie season in 2007-08, but he's still just 21 and was good enough to be picked No. 8 in the 2006 Entry Draft.

The Coyotes also added forward Lee Stempniak from Toronto for defenseman Matt Jones and 2010 fourth- and seventh-round picks. Maloney brought in depth by landing former Islanders first-rounder Petteri Nokelainen from Anaheim for a 2010 sixth-round pick and 24-year-old Alexandre Picard from Columbus for minor-league center Chad Kolarik. He brought in minor-league goalie Miika Wiikman and a 2011 seventh-round pick from the Rangers for 35-year-old defenseman Anders Eriksson, who wasn't playing much in Phoenix.

"We worked hard to get ourselves in the position we're at in the standings, but we need to win games and that's what today was all about," Maloney said. "We basically added five players with NHL experience and taken one out in Peter Mueller. Now we just have to work on chemistry and get that mix going."

How they shape up: The Coyotes have a tough road ahead. They lost 5-2 to St. Louis on Tuesday in the opener of a four-game homestand, but then play nine of their last 14 games this month on the road, starting with a four-game swing through the Southeast on March 13. In all, 11 of their last 18 are away from Arena, meaning the Coyotes really need to make the most of their next three games.

With 79 points, the Coyotes entered Thursday's games with a 10-point cushion on ninth-place Calgary. But with all those road games, that kind of margin is no guarantee of a playoff berth -- one that this franchise desperately needs.

Stars Dallas Stars

Position: 4th in Pacific Division, 10th in Western Conference

What they did:
Sit this one out

Joe Nieuwendyk's first Deadline Day as a general manager was marked by a lack of activity. The Stars made their big move before the Olympic break when they brought in goaltender Kari Lehtonen from Atlanta, likely meaning Marty Turco's time in Texas will come to an end after the season. Backup goaltender Alex Auld was lost on waivers to the New York Rangers last weekend.

The Stars did lock up pending unrestricted free agent Steve Ott by signing him to a four-year extension Monday.

"We were listening to a lot of people but there wasn't really anything realistic that we could get done," Nieuwendyk said. "We would have loved to get a few draft picks, but this is what we expected for today. We believed we had made our deals already in getting Kari Lehtonen and signing Steve Ott."

How they shape up: The Stars have 11 of their remaining 20 games at home, including a six-game homestand from March 12-21 that follows a nasty three-game swing through the East (Pittsburgh, Washington and Buffalo). They follow the homestand with a four-game trip that includes visits to all three California teams. One break -- they only have two more back-to-backs, and one of them is at home.

Dallas has to make the most of its home games -- the Stars are 18-7-5 at the American Airlines Center, one of the best home marks in the NHL. Though they're only a couple of points out of eighth place in the jam-packed West, the Stars will have to step it up to avoid a second straight early vacation.

Ducks Anaheim Ducks

5th in Pacific Division, 11th in Western Conference

What they did: Reworked the defense

GM Bob Murray did some serious work on the blue line. He brought in offensive-minded Lubomir Visnovsky from Edmonton for Ryan Whitney, and Aaron Ward came from Carolina for minor-league goaltender Justin Pogge and a conditional fourth-round pick.

Murray also did some tweaking by sending spare-part forward Petteri Nokelainen to Phoenix for a 2010 sixth-round pick, exchanged backup goaltenders with Calgary by sending Vesa Toskala to the Flames for Curtis McElhinney, and sent a 2011 seventh-round pick to Toronto for minor-league goaltender Joey MacDonald.

Those deals came a month after Murray made a big deal with Toronto, sending goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere to the Leafs for Toskala and forward Jason Blake.

"We addressed our defensive situations, which hasn't been real good this year," Murray said. "This is not a shot at Ryan Whitney. Our defense hasn't played well and we had to improve there if we were going to go anywhere. I think we've done that today. We wanted somebody who we thought could run the power play and we think Lubo can do that. Ryan Whitney is a shooter on the power play. We kept playing Ryan out of position. It didn't fit for what we were trying to do. It's not Ryan’s fault. It just didn't work here or fit here for us."

How they shape up: If the Ducks are going to make the playoffs, the next three weeks are vital. After a trip to Phoenix on Saturday, they play their next seven games at the Honda Center, where they won a franchise-record 11 straight games before Wednesday's loss to Colorado.

The Ducks still have one more swing through Western Canada, but go no further East than Dallas and St. Louis in the final week of the season.

"We can't have any bad nights," Murray said. "I'm quite confident if this team comes to compete every night, they will have a good run at it. I think we are a better hockey team than we were yesterday and the day before."
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