No coasting in Pacific

Entering today’s games, teams from the Pacific Division occupied spots No. 2 (San Jose), No. 4 (Phoenix), No. 5 (Kings) and No. 6 (Dallas) in the Western Conference, not counting perennial playoff team Anaheim slumming it at No. 14.

That’s a big jump from last season, when Pacific teams finished No. 1 (San Jose), No. 8 (Anaheim), No. 12 (Dallas), No. 13 (Phoenix) and No. 14 (Kings) in the conference. I asked Terry Murray whether it felt as though the division had improved that significantly.

MURRAY: “I feel this whole conference is getting better all the time. Detroit, for 15 years, is still a top team, but now we’re seeing Chicago, Columbus is getting better, this team here, Phoenix, is tremendously improved from last year. Dallas is getting right of top of it again. You can go through it… You’ve got San Jose and Anaheim, who are premier teams in the league. I’d like to think that we’re moving in the right direction ourselves. That makes it a very competitive game every night.

“It’s very exciting. It’s a wonderful challenge for us to have, as a team, to go into any game in particular and have to be at your best. I like the way we’ve responded to the challenge, also. I think every one of our starts, with the exception of opening night, have been exactly what we needed. The first periods have been with energy, with purpose, with a real strong attitude. We just have to stick with it. Every point is so critical.”

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