|Western Conference team-by-team preview capsules|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 03 October 2008 09:45|
DETROIT RED WINGS
LAST SEASON: 54-21-7, 115 points. Won Stanley Cup 4-2 over Pittsburgh.
COACH: Mike Babcock, 4th season 162-56-28; 5th overall, 231-132-47.
ADDED: G Ty Conklin, RW Darren Haydar, RW Marian Hossa.
LOST: RW Dallas Drake, G Dominik Hasek.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Chris Osgood emerged as the No. 1 goalie during last season's playoffs and posted a .930 save percentage and 1.55 GAA to earn his third Stanley Cup ring. But can Osgood, who turns 36 in November, handle a full regular season with Hasek retired?
three goals a game last season. The Slovakian winger, signed for only one season, had 12 goals and 26 points in 20 playoff games while helping Pittsburgh advance to the finals. ... The Wings could have the best top line in the NHL with LW Pavel Datsyuk, C Henrik Zetterberg and RW Tomas Holmstrom, who produced a combined 84 goals and 259 points. The likely second line of LW Johan Franzen, C Valtteri Filppula and Hossa could also form the top trio on most other teams. Franzen was another playoff hero with 13 goals and 18 points in 16 games. ... Detroit was the best defensive team in the NHL in 2007-08 at 2.18 goals-allowed per game. D Nicklas Lidstrom won his third straight Norris Trophy and sixth overall, while Datsyuk won the Selke Trophy for best defensive forward. ... D Chris Chelios is back for a 25th NHL season and 10th with the Red Wings, but he will miss the first 3-to-6 weeks after fracturing a shin bone during a preseason game. Last season, he became the second-oldest player in NHL history to appear in a game, behind Gordie Howe. ... The 1997-98 Red Wings were the last team to repeat as Cup champions.
LAST SEASON: 41-32-9, 91 points. Lost to Detroit 4-2 in first round.
COACH: Barry Trotz, 10th season, 324-329-85.
ADDED: LW Josh Gratton, LW Michael Ryan.
nski, LW Martin Gelinas, LW Jan Hlavac, LW Darcy Hordichuk, G Chris Mason, D Marek Zidlicky.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Dan Ellis will be the Predators' third opening-night goalie in as many seasons after Mason was traded to St. Louis. Ellis was strong down the stretch and in the playoffs last season, finishing 23-10-3 with a 2.34 GAA in 44 appearances.
ICING: The Predators are in the midst of their second distraction in as many offseasons after a contract dispute with RW Alexander Radulov. Radulov, who had 26 goals and 58 points last season, has a year left on his deal with Nashville, but signed a three-year contract to play with a Russian KHL team. The team suspended Radulov indefinitely without pay and the International Ice Hockey Federation ruled in favor of the Predators. ... Despite the loss of Zidlicky, the team boasts a young and talented defensive corps. The top four of Ryan Suter, Dan Hamhuis, Shea Weber and Ville Koistenen combined for 21 goals, 95 points and a plus-6 rating last season. ... C Jason Arnott and LW J.P. Dumont form a formidable 1-2 punch on the top line and shared the team lead with 72 points last season. RW Steve Sullivan missed all of last season because of back problems and is not close to returning, so LW Martin Erat (23-24-57) and C David Legwand (15-29-44) will again have to pick up the slack.
LAST SEASON: 40-34-8, 88 points. Out of playoffs.
COACH: Denis Savard, 3rd season, 64-64-15.
ADDED: C Tim Brent, D Brian Campbell, G Cristobal Huet, D Aaron Johnson, LW Pascal Pelletier, D Matt Walker.
LOST: LW Rene Bourque, C Robert Lang, C Yanic Perreault, C Martin St. Pierre, RW Jason Williams, D Andrei Zyuzin.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Campbell, the top defenseman on the free-agent market, is expected to help boost a power play that ranked 24th in the league last season. He had five goals and 33 points with the man-advantage in 2007-08.
ffalo and San Jose. ... C Patrick Sharp continues to surprise after recording a career-high and team-leading 36 goals last season, including seven short-handed tallies. His point total has jumped in each of the last three seasons from 31 to 62.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
LAST SEASON: 34-36-12, 80 points. Out of playoffs.
COACH: Ken Hitchcock, 3rd season, 62-65-17; 13th overall, 470-314-117.
ADDED: D Christian Backman, D Mike Commodore, LW Kristian Huselius, C Steve Kelly, C Craig MacDonald, LW Raffi Torres, D Fedor Tyutin, C R.J. Umberger.
LOST: C Gilbert Brule, C Dan Fritsche, D Ron Hainsey, C Zenon Konopka, LW Joakim Lindstrom, D Dick Tarnstrom, RW David Vyborny, D Duvie Westcott, RW Nikolai Zherdev.
PLAYER TO WATCH: R.J. Umberger was brought in to center LW Rick Nash and free-agent signee Huselius on the top line. Umberger was known as a banger in Philadelphia, but did have 10 goals and 15 points in 17 playoff games last spring.
defending-champion Detroit, another playoff team in Nashville and up-and-coming Chicago. ... G Pascal Leclaire is coming off his best season with 24 wins, a 2.25 GAA, .919 save percentage and nine shutouts. He was rewarded with a three-year contract in July. ... LW Frederik Modin is back after missing 59 games last season due to various ailments, but Torres, who sat out Edmonton's final 49 games after knee surgery, will miss the first six weeks of this season after separating his shoulder during a preseason fight.
ST. LOUIS BLUES
LAST SEASON: 33-36-13, 79 points. Out of playoffs.
COACH: Andy Murray, 3rd season, 60-54-22; 10th overall, 275-256-85.
ADDED: RW Matt Foy, G Chris Mason, RW Steve Regier, LW Brad Winchester, D Mike Weaver, D Andy Wozniewski.
LOST: D Micki DuPont, RW Mike Glumac, RW Jamal Mayers, RW Mike Johnson, C Ryan Johnson, LW Martin Rucinsky, D Matt Walker.
PLAYER TO WATCH: LW Paul Kariya slumped to 16 goals and 65 points with a minus-10 rating in his first season in St. Louis. He was still the team's second-leading scorer, but needs to rediscover his past to help an offense that finished 26th last season at 2.46 goals per game.
erior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his right knee during a team golf outing on Sept. 16. The injury could open a roster spot for D Alex Pietrangelo, the fourth overall selection last June. ... Besides Pietrangelo, the team will continue to infuse young talent into the lineup. LW David Perron impressed last season with 13 goals and 27 points and could be joined this year by RW T.J. Oshie and C Patrik Berglund. ... Special teams could remain a huge concern. Despite adding LW Paul Kariya, St. Louis still finished with the worst power play in the NHL at 14.1 percent last season and the same unit remains. The team did boast the seventh-best penalty-killing unit at 84.4 percent, but Mayers and Ryan Johnson will be missed. ... Defensemen Eric Brewer and Barret Jackman combined for a minus-30 rating last season. ... The Blues finally have some stability in goal with Mason, formerly of division-rival Nashville, who will join Manny Legace. The team used four goalies last season.
LAST SEASON: 44-28-10, 98 points. Lost to Colorado 4-2 in first round.
COACH: Jacques Lemaire, 9th season, 253-240-81; 14th overall, 500-399-150.
ADDED: D Marc-Andre Bergeron, LW Andrew Brunettte, RW Matt Foy, RW Antti Miettinen, RW Owen Nolan, RW Craig Weller, D Marek Zidlicky.
OST: D Keith Carney, LW Pavol Demitra, LW Todd Fedoruk, D Sean Hill, C Steve Kelly, D Petteri Nummelin, RW Mark Parrish, RW Branko Radivojevic, LW Brian Rolston, LW Chris Simon, LW Aaron Voros.
PLAYER TO WATCH: RW Marian Gaborik finally lasted a full season without a significant injury and reached career highs with 42 goals and 83 points. But he had just one point in six playoff games and is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
o go with a 2.17 GAA. He, too, is in the final year of his contract.
LAST SEASON: 44-31-7, 95 points. Lost to Detroit 4-0 in conference semifinals.
COACH: Tony Granato, 1st season; 3rd overall 72-44-17.
ADDED: G Andrew Raycroft, C Nathan Smith, RW Darcy Tucker, RW Brian Willsie.
LOST: LW Andrew Brunette, D Jeff Finger, C Peter Forsberg, LW Jaroslav Hlinka, C Brad Richardson, D Kurt Sauer, G Jose Theodore.
PLAYER TO WATCH: G Peter Budaj inherited the starting job after Theodore shocked the team by signing with Washington. He is 61-36-16 over three seasons, but appeared in more than 35 games only once.
ng replaced by Joel Quenneville and moving into an assistant's role. ... Both special-teams units struggled last season with the team owning the third-worst power play (14.6 percent) and the 21st-ranked, penalty-killing group (81.4). Brunette was second on the team with seven power-play goals, but he left for Minnesota.
LAST SEASON: 42-30-10, 94 points. Lost to San Jose 4-3 in first round.
COACH: Mike Keenan, 2nd season; 20th overall 626-521-157.
ADDED: RW Todd Bertuzzi, LW Rene Bourque, LW Mike Cammalleri, LW Curtis Glencross, LW Andre Roy, LW Peter Vandermeer.
LOST: RW Eric Godard, D David Hale, LW Kristian Huselius, G Curtis Joseph, RW Owen Nolan, C Mark Smith, LW Alex Tanguay, C Stephane Yelle.
PLAYER TO WATCH: G Miikka Kiprusoff has shown glimpses of his potential in recent seasons, but was pulled twice during the Flames' seven-game loss to San Jose in the first round of the playoffs. He is still good for 35-40 wins, but his GAA has gone up each of the last four seasons.
eam is still searching for the supporting cast that will get them over the hump. ... After a tumultuous final season in Los Angeles, a change of scenery may help Cammalleri return to the 34-goal, 80-point form he showed in the previous campaign. Bertuzzi revived his career with the Ducks last season, and the pair should help offset the losses of Huselius and Tanguay. ... The team is hoping RW Dustin Boyd, RW David Moss and LW Eric Nystrom can secure permanent NHL jobs. The trio combined for 14 goals last season and will get the first crack at filling in the bottom two lines. ... Bourque was a strong penalty-killer with Chicago last season, with half of his 10 goals coming with the team short-handed.
LAST SEASON: 41-35-6, 88 points. Out of playoffs.
COACH: Craig MacTavish, 8th season, 263-238-73.
ADDED: C Gilbert Brule, LW Erik Cole, D Jason Strudwick, D Lubomir Visnovsky.
LOST: LW Curtis Glencross, D Matt Greene, D Joni Pitkanen, C Marty Reasoner, LW Geoff Sanderson, C Jarret Stoll, LW Raffi Torres.
es in three seasons.
ICING: The Oilers have missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons since advancing to the Cup finals in 2006, but there is plenty of optimism thanks to a 14-5-1 finish and a young and energetic roster that should provide excitement. Rookies Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Tom Gilbert were among the top eight in team scoring last season and helped the Oilers produce 235 goals, good for fourth in the offensive-minded Western Conference. ... D Sheldon Souray, who signed a $27-million, five-year deal with the Oilers two summers ago, had a forgettable first season in Edmonton with shoulder and arm injuries that limited him to just 26 games. Gilbert helped fill the void with 13 goals, which led NHL defensemen, and 33 points while playing in all 82 games. ... Horcoff signed a six-year contract extension in July. The 30-year old forward had 50 points in 53 games before undergoing season-ending surgery on his left shoulder. ... Goaltending duties will likely be split again between Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon. Garon, a career backup, won 26 games, 11 better than the 38-year-old Roloson. ... Edmonton went 15-4 in shootouts last year, with Horcoff converting on five of his seven attempts.
LAST SEASON: 39-33-10, 88 points. Out of playoffs.
9-17; 7th overall, 197-181-52.
ADDED: RW Steve Bernier, D Rob Davison, RW Pavol Demitra, LW Darcy Hordichuk, C Ryan Johnson, D Lawrence Nycholat, C Kyle Wellwood.
LOST: LW Brad Isbister, C Trevor Linden, D Aaron Miller, C Brendan Morrison, LW Markus Naslund, C Byron Ritchie, RW Ryan Shannon.
PLAYER TO WATCH: The Canucks will again go as far as G Roberto Luongo takes them. Luongo is coming off his third straight season of at least 35 wins, but faltered down the stretch last season with losses in seven of his last eight starts. The team even made an unprecedented move by naming him captain, but Luongo is not allowed to wear the ``C'' on his jersey per NHL rules.
s 19 seasons in Vancouver. Linden played 1,140 of his 1,382 games, and recorded 733 of his 867 career points, with the Canucks.
SAN JOSE SHARKS
LAST SEASON: 49-23-10, 108 points. Lost to Dallas 4-2 in conference semifinals.
COACH: Todd McLellan, 1st season, 1st overall.
ADDED: D Rob Blake, D Dan Boyle, D Brad Lukowich.
LOST: C Curtis Brown, D Brian Campbell, D Matt Carle, C Mike Iggulden, D Sandis Ozolinsh, LW Pat Rissmiller, D Craig Rivet.
PLAYER TO WATCH: G Evgeni Nabokov recorded 46 wins over a team-record 77 games last season and was second in the Vezina Trophy voting to New Jersey's Martin Brodeur. Veteran Brian Boucher was signed as a free agent in February and is expected to ease the workload.
ouard Vlasic, Christian Ehrhoff and Doug Murray. ... C Joe Thornton continues to lead what seems to be a one-man offense with 96 points, 41 better than the next-best forward in LW Milan Michalek. RW Jonathan Cheechoo hasn't come close to his 56-goal outburst from 2005-06 and LW Patrick Marleau continued to slump with 48 points last season. C Jeremy Roenick was a pleasant surprise last season with 14 goals in 69 games, including 10 game-winners. ... San Jose had a league-best 85.8 penalty-killing percentage last season.
LAST SEASON: 47-27-8, 102 points. Lost to Dallas 4-2 in first round.
COACH: Randy Carlyle, 4th season, 138-74-44.
ADDED: D Joe DiPenta, D Ken Klee, F Brad Larsen, LW Joakim Lindstrom, D Steve Montador, C Brendan Morrison.
LOST: D Marc-Andre Bergeron, RW Todd Bertuzzi, RW Jason King, D Maxim Kondratiev, RW Mark Mowers, D Sean O'Donnell, C Geoff Platt, D Mathieu Schneider, C Doug Weight.
PLAYER TO WATCH: D Chris Pronger's production dropped to 43 points last season and his reputation took another hit following an eight-game suspension for stomping on Vancouver's Ryan Kesler in March. Defense partner Scott Niedermayer is back for a full season so his point total could return to the usual 50-59 range.
year, getting eliminated in the first round by Dallas despite having the same group that took them to their first Cup championship the previous summer. There has been some turnover in the roster, but captain Niedermayer and RW Teemu Selanne return for full seasons. The top line of LW Chris Kunitz, C Ryan Getzlaf and RW Corey Perry was retained, so another 40-win season and playoff berth is likely. ... G Jean-Sebastien Giguere set team records with his 2.12 GAA and .922 save percentage, but struggled against Dallas last spring. A longer offseason this summer could have him refreshed and motivated heading into next postseason. ... The usually durable Morrison, expected to be the second-line center, was limited to 39 games last season due to wrist and knee injuries. He has 50-plus points in six of the past seven NHL seasons. ... Schneider and O'Donnell were both traded last month to make room under the cap to sign Selanne. The team needs D Francois Beuchamin to rebound from a 21-point, minus-9 campaign while trying to fill the other defensive spots with rookies. ... C Bobby Ryan had 10 points in 23 games as a rookie last season and will try to make a permanent jump with the big club.
LAST SEASON: 45-30-7, 97 points. Lost to Detroit 4-2 in conference final.
COACH: Dave Tippett, 6th season, 235-127-48.
ADDED: LW Sean Avery, D Doug Janik.
LOST: C Stu Barnes, LW Niklas Hagman, G Johan Holmqvist, RW Antti Miettinen, D Mattias Norstrom, LW Brad Winchester.
PLAYER TO WATCH: C Mike Ribeiro is coming off a career season with 27 goals and 83 points. His point total was 18 better than his previous high with Montreal in 2003-04, so it remains to be seen whether he can put up those numbers now that he has the cushion of a contract extension.
n as a rookie with a plus-22 rating. Trevor Daley also hit the 20-point mark. ... Marty Turco has finally put aside past playoff failures and has emerged as an elite goaltender at age 33. He already owns the franchise record for wins (207) and shutouts (33). ... Barnes retired after 16 NHL seasons to move behind the bench as the Stars' assistant coach.
LAST SEASON: 38-37-7, 83 points. Out of playoffs.
COACH: Wayne Gretzky, 3rd season, 107-122-17.
ADDED: D Drew Fata, LW Todd Fedoruk, D David Hale, LW Jeff Hoggan, C Olli Jokinen, RW Brian McGrattan, C Garth Murray, D Kurt Sauer,
LOST: D Keith Ballard, D Brendan Bell, D Nick Boynton, LW Josh Gratton, LW Marcel Hossa, C Niko Kapanen, LW Matt Murley, LW Mathias Tjarnqvist, LW Peter Vandermeer, RW Radim Vrbata, RW Craig Weller, LW Mike York.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Ilya Bryzgalov was plucked off the waiver wire from Anaheim on Nov. 17 and immediately settled the team's goalie situation by winning 26 games with three shutouts. He was rewarded with a three-year contract worth more than $12 million two months later.
and now needs the young core of forwards to develop, an improved defense, and more steady play from Bryzgalov to contend in April. ... RW Shane Doan, coming off a career-best, 78-point season, and Jokinen, a four-time 30-goal scorer, could form a dangerous 1-2 combination on the top line. Both also possess tremendous leadership abilities that will help the younger forwards. ... Ballard and Boynton had to be given up to get Jokinen from Florida, so the defense could be a question mark. Ed Jovanovski is finally coming off an injury-free season, but he was a minus-13. Derek Morris and Zybanek Michalek provide more stability to the blue line, but Hale and Sauer have yet to find a permanent home. ... LW Daniel Carcillo amassed a league-leading 324 penalty minutes last season, but the Coyotes are getting him to focus more on offense. McGrattan was brought in to provide more toughness.
LOS ANGELES KINGS
LAST SEASON: 32-43-7, 71 points. Out of playoffs.
COACH: Terry Murray, 1st season; 12th overall 360-288-89.
ADDED: D Denis Gauthier, D Matt Greene, D Sean O'Donnell, C Brad Richardson, C Jarret Stoll.
LOST: D Rob Blake, LW Michael Cammalleri, G Dan Cloutier, D Kevin Dallman, LW Matt Ellis, C Jeff Giuliano, D Jon Klemm, LW Ladislav Nagy, LW Scott Thornton, D Lubomir Visnovsky, RW Brian Willsie.
WATCH: RW Dustin Brown was voted as the team's ``Most Inspirational Player'' last season after reaching career highs in goals (33) and points (60) and is realizing the potential that made him the 13th pick in the 2003 draft.