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There’s depth on defense

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Times Staff Writer

In today’s NHL, where having a well-rounded group of defensemen has become a priority, the Kings have put together a nice mix of blue-line players.

There’s All-Star candidate Lubomir Visnovsky, one of the most underrated players in the league, and 20-year-old Jack Johnson, who has the potential to one day win a Norris Trophy, given to the top defenseman in the NHL.

Then for leadership and a taste of Kings history, there’s veteran Rob Blake, who won the Norris Trophy in 1998, and Jaroslav Modry. Both players are in their second stint with the franchise.

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But the key to the Kings’ defense will be how well free-agent signees Tom Preissing, Jon Klemm and Brad Stuart fit in.

“We’re pretty solid from top to bottom,” said Stuart, who left Calgary to sign a one-year deal worth a reported $3.5 million with the Kings during the off-season.

“We have some depth and that is always important as you get later on in the season. When you start having injuries and different things begin to happen, that’s when you need that depth and we definitely have that.”

Preissing, who played with Ottawa last season, is expected to provide an offensive boost with his skills on the power play. Klemm is a crafty veteran expected to be a steady stay-at-home-type defender.

Stuart, selected by San Jose with the No. 3 overall pick of the 1998 draft, could be the X-factor for the Kings’ defense.

“I think we are very solid,” said Stuart, who had eight goals and 22 points over 75 games last season playing for the Boston Bruins and Flames.

When free agency began, “the Kings were certainly on the radar but it’s not like I had them on top of my list,” Stuart said. “I don’t think I really had a list to speak of. But the Kings were a team that I saw myself coming to and it just happened to work out that way.”

Stuart’s relationship with Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi, who drafted him to the Sharks, helped.

“I know how Dean works and how he operates,” Stuart said. “I like what he’s done and how he has the team going in the right direction.”

The Kings assigned 17 players to minor league affiliate Manchester (N.H.). They included defensemen Troy Milam, Brendan Buckley, Joe Ryan and Drew Bagnall, forwards David Meckler, Paul Crosty, Kevin Westgarth and Adam Perry and goaltenders Erik Ersberg and Jonathan Quick.

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lonnie.white@latimes.com


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