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PIERRE MCGUIRE'S In the Crease

The Kings lead the Western Conference in part because defenseman Jack Johnson, the third pick in 2005, has stepped up in the absence of Drew Doughty, who missed six games recently with a concussion. Johnson has thrived because of, among other things, improved conditioning... . Ducks defenseman Toni Lydman is one of the best free-agent pickups of the season. Playing against opponents' top lines, he leads Anaheim at +10, and his grit has made an impression on his young teammates... . Forward Gabriel Landeskog from Kitchener of the OHL is a hot prospect. The 6'1" 207-pounder is such a physical force and scoring marvel (16 goals in 19 games) that some NHL teams consider him to be one of the top three players available for the June draft.

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JEFF GROSS/GETTY IMAGES (JOHNSON)