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"It's going to be a grind," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "It's going to be playoff hockey every time we're out there, but that's what we enjoy. Everybody in the league is going to be in the same boat, so we've got to avoid going on any long losing streak, but we're happy to get a chance to come back."
The Kings beat New Jersey in six games to become the first team seeded eighth to win the Stanley Cup. They are hoping to finish the season as the NHL's first repeat champions since the Detroit Red Wings hoisted Cups in 1997 and 1998.
It won't be easy.
Both conferences had five 100-point teams last season and some good teams in the East and West made moves in the hopes of becoming great. Other clubs spent a lot of money last summer hoping to get into the mix.
The postseason will start April 30 and end no later than June 28.
The New York Rangers were top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference playoffs last season and fell a round short of the finals last year. They're hoping for more this year after acquiring five-time All-Star Rick Nash in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Minnesota Wild made the largest splash in free agency, shooting to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. They surprised many across the league when they added highly touted free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter with 13-year, $98 million contracts.
Minnesota won't have much time to break in their new stars.
"Getting off to a good start's pretty important," Parise said. "You don't have the dog days of the season. It's basically half a season and go. It's a sprint to the playoffs. So you want to make sure the games at the beginning of the season are just as, if not more, important than the ones at the end.
"You want to put yourselves in a good spot."
The Kings tried to give themselves a chance to end in the same spot they ended up in last year, keeping their team together entering coach Darryl Suter's first full season behind their bench.
"We know every team is going to be gunning for us," Doughty said. "But we're confident we're going to have a good team again that can compete."
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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