(Reuters) - Following are brief profiles of the 15 teams in the Western Conference ahead of the 2012-13 National Hockey League (NHL) season.
Head coach: Joel Quenneville
2011-12 Record: 45-26-11
After getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs each of the past two seasons, the Blackhawks look to return to their Stanley Cup-winning form of 2010. Leading scorer Marian Hossa is cleared to play and captain Jonathan Toews appears fit again. But improvement is needed from goaltender Corey Crawford.
Head coach: Todd Richards
2011-12 Record: 29-46-7
The Blue Jackets are not likely to escape the Western Conference cellar but even without departed leading scorer Rick Nash there should be improvement with the arrival of forward Artem Anisimov and center Brandon Dubinksky and netminder Sergei Bobrovsky to give Steve Mason some competition.
Head coach: Mike Babcock
2011-12 Record: 48-28-6
The retirement of 11-times All-Star Nicklas Lidstrom leaves a big hole in the Red Wings’ defense with Niklas Kronwall being called on to help fill the gap. Top scorers Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk should carry the offense, which lost Jiri Hudler to Calgary, during the offseason.
Head coach: Barry Trotz
2011-12 Record: 48-26-8
The re-signing of free agent defenseman Shea Weber was a big plus for the Predators, but losing Ryan Suter to Minnesota could hurt. Leading scorers Martin Erat and David Legwand return as does goalie Pekka Rinne and that may help Nashville squeeze into the playoffs.
Head coach: Ken Hitchcock
2011-12 Record: 49-22-11
Another playoff run and top finish in the Central Division appear possible for the Blues if they can sustain last season’s turnaround. Goaltending pair of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, coveted addition Vladimir Tarasenko and a healthy David Perron could make it happen.
Head coach: Bob Hartley
2011-12 Record: 37-29-16
The Flames have not made the playoffs since the 2008-09 season and 500-goal scorer Jarome Iginla will need help for any chance of a turnaround this year. The acquisition of defenseman Dennis Wideman, winger Jiri Hudler and center Roman Cervenka should boost hopes.
Head coach: Joe Sacco
2011-12 Record: 41-35-6
The Avalanche may be too young to end two seasons of playoff absence. Winger Gabriel Landeskog, their captain and the NHL’s reigning rookie of the year, is only 20. Winger P.A. Parenteau and defenseman Greg Zanon add experience but leading scorer Ryan O‘Reilly must find a way out of a two-year Russian KHL contract to return.
Head coach: Ralph Krueger
2011-12 Record: 32-40-10
New coach Ralph Krueger likely will turn to Devan Dubnyk in goal in a bid to improve on last season’s last place finish in the Northwest Division. Top draft pick Nail Yakupov’s arrival along with the signing of leading scorer Jordan Eberle should help.
Head coach: Mike Yeo
2011-12 Record: 35-36-11
The signing of key free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter bring a wave enthusiasm to a Wild franchise that has made it out of the first round of the playoffs only once in its 12-year history. Dany Heatley and Mikko Koivu, the team’s top two scorers, spark the offense.
Head coach: Alain Vigneault
2011-12 Record: 51-22-9
The Canucks, who finished first overall but went out in the opening round of the playoffs, could be back in the thick of a Stanley Cup run. Focus will be on goal as Cory Schneider takes over starting duties from Roberto Luongo. The Sedins will power the offense but the team will have to do without Ryan Kesler to start the season as the center is out after offseason surgery.
Head coach: Bruce Boudreau
2011-12 Record: 34-36-12
Teemu Selanne, Anaheim’s leading scorer from last season, returns for his 20th and possibly final NHL campaign. The Ducks also have talent in center Ryan Getzlaf, wingers Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan while Jonas Hiller is likely to be the workhorse in goal but making the postseason may be tough.
Head coach: Glen Gulutzan
2011-12 Record: 42-35-5
The playoff drought likely will continue for the Stars, who have missed out four years running. Leading scorer Loui Eriksson and fellow winger Jamie Benn return and the Stars are hoping 40-year-old signees Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney have a year of solid play left.
Head coach: Darryl Sutter
2011-12 Record: 40-27-15
The Cinderella Stanley Cup champions may not find the glass slipper again this season but should be contenders. Centers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter and top goalie Jonathan Quick are back but the Kings will start the season without injured leading scorer Anze Kopitar.
Head coach: Dave Tippett
2011-12 Record: 42-27-13
A Pacific Division regular season title and strong playoff run likely will be much tougher for the Coyotes to achieve this year. But with goalie Mike Smith and wingers Shane Doan and Raffi Torres they could be contenders.
Head coach: Todd McLellan
2011-12 Record: 43-29-10
The Sharks’ streak of being in the playoffs every NHL season since 2003 could be on the line unless key scorers Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau find some help. Goalie Antti Niemi needs to prove the Stanley Cup ring he won with Chicago in 2010 was not a fluke.
Compiled by Gene Cherry in Salvo, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue