|NHL 2007-08: Eastern Conference team-by-team preview capsules|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 27 September 2007 18:43|
Team-by-team capsules for the Eastern Conference, listed in 2006-07 season order of finish:|
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
LAST SEASON: 49-24-4, 107 points. Lost to Ottawa 4-1 in conference semifinals.
COACH: Brent Sutter, 1st season.
ADDED: D Karel Rachunek, D Vitali Vishnevski, G Kevin Weekes, RW Dainius Zubrus.
LOST: G Scott Clemmensen, C Jim Dowd, C Scott Gomez, D Brad Lukowich, D Brian Rafalski, LW Erik Rasmussen.
PLAYER TO WATCH: G Martin Brodeur appeared in 78 of 82 games and won the Vezina Trophy for a third time after setting an NHL record with 48 wins last season, but fatigue could have finally caught up with the 35-year-old goalie after a shaky playoff. Weekes could finally ease his workload this season.
ICING: The Devils move into their new arena in Newark without two key members of their 2003 Stanley Cup team, Gomez and Rafalski. The pressure will be on D Paul Martin (3-23-26) to pick up the offensive slack on the blue line while the veteran Zubrus slides into Gomez's slot as the second-line center. ... Sutter, a two-time Stanley Cup champion as a player, coached the Red Deer Rebels to the Western Hockey League title in 2001 and guided Canada to world junior gold in 2005 and 2006. ... The Devils open the season with a nine-game road trip.
LAST SEASON: 47-24-11, 105 points. Lost to Ottawa 4-1 in first round.
COACH: Michel Therrien, 3rd season, 61-53-19; 6th overall, 138-143-42.
ADDED: C Tim Brent, G Ty Conklin, G Dany Sabourin, C Nathan Smith, D Daryl Sydor, RW Petr Sykora.
LOST: LW Nils Ekman, D Joel Kwiatkowski, D Josef Melichar, RW Ronald Petrovicky, RW Maxime Ouellet, G Jocelyn Thibault, C Chris Thorburn.
PLAYER TO WATCH: G Marc-Andre Fleury vastly improved his numbers from 2005-06, finishing third in the NHL with 40 wins, a 2.83 GAA and .906 save percentage. Which goalie will show up in his third season?
36 goals and 120 points last season. He signed a five-year extension through the 2012-13 season worth $43.5 million and was named captain. ... The Penguins had two Calder Trophy finalists for top rookie last year in C Evgeni Malkin (33-52-85) and LW Jordan Staal (29-13-42). Staal had seven short-handed goals.
NEW YORK RANGERS
LAST SEASON: 42-30-10, 94 points. Lost to Buffalo 4-2 in conference semifinals.
COACH: Tom Renney, 4th season, 91-71-22; 6th overall, 130-124-31.
ADDED: C Chris Drury, C Scott Gomez, D Andrew Hutchinson.
LOST: C Matt Cullen, C Michael Nylander, LW Brad Isbister, RW Jed Ortmeyer, D Sandis Ozolinsh, D Karel Rachuenk, G Kevin Weekes.
PLAYER TO WATCH: RW Jaromir Jagr had 96 points last season while playing on a line with the departed Nylander and now has to try to develop chemistry with Gomez. Will Jagr still produce at a high level or brood the entire winter?
hoping 2005 first-round pick D Marc Staal can help in that area. ... Lundqvist is 67-34-17 with a 2.29 GAA and .919 save percentage during his brief NHL career. ... RW Brendan Shanahan returns for a 20th NHL season.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
LAST SEASON: 40-30-12, 92 points. Lost to Buffalo 4-1 in first round.
COACH: Ted Nolan, 2nd season; 4th overall, 113-102-32.
ADDED: C Mike Comrie, LW Ruslan Fedotenko, RW Bill Guerin, D Aaron Johnson, LW Jon Sim, D Andy Sutton, C Josef Vasicek.
LOST: LW Jason Blake, G Mike Dunham, D Sean Hill, RW Viktor Kozlov, D Tom Poti, C Wyatt Smith, LW Ryan Smyth, C Alexei Yashin, LW Richard Zednik.
PLAYER TO WATCH: G Rick DiPietro signed an unprecedented 15-year contract last summer and went on to win 32 games, but was sidelined by two concussions 12 days apart late in the regular season and the start of the playoffs and had arthroscopic surgery in May to repair a tear in his left hip.
ason games to complete the 25-game ban he received for a stick-swinging attack against Rangers forward Ryan Hollweg on March 8. It was the longest suspension in terms of games missed in NHL history. ... The Islanders allowed the third-fewest goals in the Eastern Conference last season (240). ... Guerin, who scored a combined 36 goals for St. Louis and San Jose last season, was named the 11th captain in team history.
LAST SEASON: 22-48-12, 56 points. Out of playoffs.
COACH: John Stevens, 2nd season, 21-42-11.
ADDED: C Daniel Briere, LW Scott Hartnell, LW Joffrey Lupul, D Jason Smith, D Kimmo Timonen.
LOST: LW Dmitri Afanasenkov, G Robert Esche, LW Todd Fedoruk, D Joni Pitkanen, LW Mike York.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Briere's 95-point season was rewarded with an eight-year, $52 million contract by the Flyers. He will have to prove his production was not a byproduct of a freewheeling Buffalo system.
llion contract in March. Antero Niittymaki returns as the backup. ... RW Simon Gagne is the first Flyer to record back-to-back 40-goal seasons since John LeClair from 1998-2000. ... Cs Jeff Carter and R.J. Umberger failed to reach 20 goals last season after doing so as rookies in 2005-06. ... RW Scottie Upshall could miss up to six weeks with a broken wrist and Umberger also needs surgery on his hand and could miss two weeks.
LAST SEASON: 53-22-7, 113 points. Lost to Ottawa 4-1 in conference finals.
COACH: Lindy Ruff, 10th season, 358-289-91.
ADDED: No additions.
LOST: C Daniel Briere, C Chris Drury, RW Dainius Zubrus.
PLAYER TO WATCH: LW Thomas Vanek received a huge raise this summer after the Sabres matched Edmonton's seven-year, $50 million offer sheet and will feel the pressure to improve on last season's 43 goals and 87 points and ease the losses of Drury and Briere.
talent from their AHL team in Rochester in recent seasons that has made solid contributions. ... C Tim Connolly missed 80 games last season because of a concussion, but did have nine assists in 16 playoff games. ... Buffalo will host Pittsburgh in an outdoor game at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Jan. 1.
LAST SEASON: 48-25-9, 105 points. Lost to Anaheim 4-1 in Stanley Cup finals.
COACH: John Paddock, 1st season; 5th overall, 106-138-37
ADDED: D Matt Carkner, LW Shean Donovan, RW Niko Dimitrakos, LW Denis Hamel, C Justin Mapletoft, D Luke Richardson.
LOST: C Mike Comrie, D Tom Preissing, C Serge Payer, LW Oleg Saprykin, LW Peter Schaefer.
PLAYER TO WATCH: G Ray Emery signed a three-year, $9.5 million contract after going 33-16-6 with a 2.47 GAA last season, but he needs another big season to make believers out of his critics.
in Ottawa, is an unrestricted free agent next summer. ... The Senators recorded their fourth straight 100-point season in 2006-07 despite going 10-22 in one-goal games. ... Ottawa had the second-best offense last season at 3.49 goals per game, led by the top line of Heatley, C Jason Spezza and RW Daniel Alfredsson with a combined 279 points. ... C Dean McAmmond sustained his second concussion in three months during a preseason game on Sept. 26 and it is not known how long he'll be out.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
LAST SEASON: 40-31-11, 91 points. Out of playoffs.
COACH: Paul Maurice, 2nd season; 11th overall, 308-338-110.
ADDED: LW Mark Bell, LW Jason Blake, G Scott Clemmensen, G Vesa Toskala.
LOST: G Jean-Sebastien Aubin, C Travis Green, RW Jeff O'Neill, C Michael Peca, C Yanic Perreault.
PLAYER TO WATCH: G Vesa Toskala was a curious part of the Bell deal and the Leafs gave up three draft picks to land them. He went 26-10-1 for San Jose last season and his 2.35 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage were both better than Andrew Raycroft, who won a franchise-record 37 games in 2006-07.
ICING: The Maple Leafs have had little success with free-agent forwards in recent seasons, but they tried again with the signing of LW Jason Blake. Blake reached career highs in goals (40) and points (69) with the Islanders last season, but can he do it again under a hotter media spotlight? ... Bell was suspended for 15 games without pay by the NHL on Sept. 12 after his plea of no contest to drunken driving and hit-and-run charges. Bell was arrested in September 2006 after his sedan rear-ended a pickup truck near San Jose and is expected to serve six months in a California jail, beginning after this season. ... C Mats Sundin has never had fewer than 72 points in any of the 11 seasons since 1995-96.
LAST SEASON: 42-3-6, 90 points. Out of playoffs.
COACH: Guy Carbonneau, 2nd season, 84-65-15.
ADDED: D Patrice Brisebois, D Roman Hamrlik, RW Tom Kostopolous, D Jamie Rivers, C Bryan Smolinski,
LOST: G David Aebischer, C Radek Bonk, RW Mike Johnson, LW Sergei Samsonov, D Sheldon Souray.
PLAYER TO WATCH: G Cristobal Huet tore his left hamstring in February and the Canadiens never recovered. The team has a capable backup in Jaroslav Halak, but Huet's health could determine whether Montreal returns to the playoffs.
Saku Koivu showed no ill-effects from the serious eye injury sustained during the 2006 playoffs, reaching career highs with 22 goals and 75 points last season. He only missed one game. ... RW Michael Ryder has had two straight 30-goal seasons.
LAST SEASON: 35-41-6, 76 points. Out of playoffs.
COACH: Claude Julien, 1st season; 4th overall, 119-95-25.
ADDED: G Manny Fernandez, LW Peter Schaefer, RW Scott Thornton.
LOST: D Nathan Dempsey, RW Shean Donovan, RW Petr Kalus, G Joey MacDonald, C Mark Mowers, RW Petr Tenkrat, D Jason York.
PLAYER TO WATCH: D Zdeno Chara had a forgettable first season in Boston with a minus-21 rating, his worst since 2000-01 with the New York Islanders. A more stable group of defensmen and Julien's system could help.
ICING: The Bruins will have their third coach in the past year with Julien replacing Dave Lewis. Julien was fired with three games left in his first regular season as coach of the Devils in 2006-07 despite having them in first place in the Atlantic Division. ... Fernandez is the latest to enter the revolving door of goaltenders that has evolved the past few seasons. The 32-year-old Fernandez was a part of Minnesota's goalie tandem that won the William Jennings Trophy, given to the team that gives up the fewest goals, but he was hampered by a recurring knee injury. ... Boston has one of the deepest center groups in the league in leading scorer Marc Savard (22-74-96), Patrice Bergeron (22-48-70) and 2006 first-round pick Phil Kessel (11-18-29). Rookie David Krejci had 31 goals and 74 points with Providence of the AHL last season.
LAST SEASON: 43-28-11, 97 points. Lost to N.Y. Rangers 4-0 in first round.
COACH: Bob Hartley, 5th season, 136-117-32; 9th overall, 329-235-80.
ADDED: C Alexandre Giroux, D Ken Klee, RW Eric Perrin, RW Chris Thorburn, C Todd White.
LOST: C Eric Belanger, D Greg de Vries, D Shane Hnidy, RW Scott Mellanby, RW Jon Sim, D Andy Sutton, RW Keith Tkachuk.
PLAYER TO WATCH: G Kari Lehtonen was a key to the Thrashers' success last season, winning 34 games while posting a 2.79 GAA. He remains the No. 1 netminder, but the goalie rotation that Hartley used in last year's playoffs could be on his mind if he struggles this season.
ICING: The franchise took a huge step forward last year with their first division title and playoff appearance. The four-game sweep in the first round by the Rangers was a huge disappointment, but the core players remain intact to make another run at another Southeast title. ... Despite RW Marian Hossa's first 100-point season, LW Slava Kozlov's 80 points and LW Ilya Kovalchuk's 42 goals, the power play was still tied for 22nd in the league last year at 16.5 percent. ... The Thrashers lost three defenseman from last year's team and their lack of speed on the blue line was exposed in the playoffs. Only Klee was added, but rookies Mark Popovic and Tobias Enstrom could also get a look. ... LW Brett Sterling was the AHL's top rookie last season with 55 goals and 97 points in 77 games.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
LAST SEASON: 44-33-5, 93 points. Lost to New Jersey 4-2 in first round.
COACH: John Tortorella, 8th season, 208-198-47; 9th overall, 208-201-48.
ADDED: C Chris Gratton, LW Jan Hlavac, D Bryce Lampman, D Brad Lukowich, LW Craig MacDonald, RW Michel Ouellet.
LOST: LW Ruslan Fedotenko, RW Eric Perrin, D Cory Sarich.
PLAYER TO WATCH: C Brad Richards will have new linemates in Hlavac and Ouellet. Will his production drop without All-Stars Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis?
miss the first few weeks of the season after undergoing wrist surgery on Sept. 23. Boyle got hurt in a freak locker room accident after a preseason game, when three tendons in his wrist were severed by a falling skate. ... Hlavac, a one-time 28-goal scorer, returns to the NHL after spending three years in Europe while Gratton is back for a third stint with the team. ... A group led by former Panthers coach Doug MacLean has agreed to buy the team and says it has no plans to move the franchise.
LAST SEASON: 40-34-8, 88 points. Out of playoffs.
COACH: Peter Laviolette, 4th season, 112-82-22; 6th overall, 189-150-41.
ADDED: C Matt Cullen, C Jeff Hamilton.
LOST: D Anton Babchuk, RW Anson Carter, D Andrew Hutchinson, D David Tanabe, C Josef Vasicek.
PLAYER TO WATCH: C Eric Staal slumped to 30 goals and 70 points last season after getting 45 and 100, respectively, in 2005-06. He was arrested for misdemeanor disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process during his offseason bachelor party.
ard reached career highs with 32 goals and 83 points.
LAST SEASON: 35-31-16, 86 points. Out of playoffs.
COACH: Jacques Martin, 3rd season 72-68-27; 13th overall, 479-391-146.
ADDED: RW Radek Dvorak, C Brett McLean, D Cory Murphy, G Tomas Vokoun, LW Richard Zednik.
LOST: G Alex Auld, G Ed Belfour, LW Martin Gelinas, C Chris Gratton, RW Jurak Kolnik, D Alexei Semenov.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Vokoun might not make anyone forget about Roberto Luongo, but he does give the Panthers the No. 1 goalie they sorely lacked last season. The team needs him to overcome his health problems from the past two seasons because backup Craig Anderson has little NHL experience.
with the man advantage in the extra session.
LAST SEASON: 28-40-14, 70 points. Out of playoffs.
COACH: Glen Hanlon, 4th season, 72-111-35; 4th overall.
ADDED: RW Viktor Kozlov, RW Joe Motzko, C Michael Nylander, D Tom Poti.
LOST: C Kris Beech, D Bryan Muir, C Jiri Novotny.
PLAYER TO WATCH: One year after deserting the team during the lockout, LW Alexander Semin enjoyed a breakout season in 2006-07 with 38 goals and 73 points while forming a powerful 1-2 tandem with Alexander Ovechkin. Semin and Ovechkin will likely be put on separate lines this season with the additions of Nylander and Kozlov.
ICING: The Caps will have another much-anticipated rookie in the lineup this season in C Nicklas Backstrom, the fourth overall pick in the 2006 draft. Backstrom had 12 goals and 40 points in 45 games with Brynas of the Swedish Elite League last season. ... Washington has had three straight last-place, 70-point finishes. Its three-year playoff drought is the club's longest in 25 years. ... Washington had the sixth worst power play at 16.4 percent last season, while the penalty killers didn't fare much better at 23rd (80.2). Poti was brought in to help quarterback the power play. ... The Capitals were 1-11 in shootouts last season.
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