NHL Eastern Conference Capsules

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:20 PM ET

NORTHEAST DIVISION

Boston Bruins

Say hello to: RW Nathan Horton, C Gregory Campbell, RW Jeremy Reich

Say goodbye to: D Dennis Wideman, C Vladimir Sobotka, G Dany Sabourin

On the mend: C Marc Savard (post-concussion syndrome) is on injured reserve, RW Marco Sturm (knee) likely to miss two months

Insider says

While they have a lot of depth at centre, Marc Savard's battle with the lingering effects of a concussion leaves a hole up the middle. Even as his career advances, he's the type of playmaker who makes his linemates better.

Pivotal player

D Zdeno Chara

With Dennis Wideman having been shipped to Florida, the 6-foot-9 Chara will have to chew up even more minutes on the Bruins blue line. As if he wasn't carrying enough of the load already.

2009-10 record: 39-30-13, third in division, sixth in conference

In a shootout

Patrice Bergeron

Nathan Horton

David Krecji

Burning question

Can the Bruins rebound from their crushing playoff loss last spring, becoming only the third team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 series lead when they lost in seven games to the Flyers in the second round?

Soft spot

After Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, the Bruins are gambling on a lot of youngsters to augment their blue line.

Cap room

Over by $2.5 million

Buffalo Sabres

Say hello to: D Jordan Leopold, C Rob Niedermayer, RW Tim Conboy

Say goodbye to: D Henrik Tallinder, D Toni Lydman

On The Mend: F Patrick Kaleta (neck) is day-to-day

Insider says

GM Darcy Regier practically stood pat during the off-season, opting to rely on the prospects in the organization to step right in. Was it because of his confidence in the players or because of budget constraints?

Pivotal player

D Tyler Myers

With Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder out of the mix, Buffalo's wafer-thin blue line will rely on the second-year defenceman even more. The Sabres hope there will be no sophomore jinx.

2009-10 Record: 45-27-10, first in division, fourth in conference

In a shootout

Thomas Vanek

Derek Roy

Tim Connolly

Burning question

G Ryan Miller is the best in the biz, but does he have enough support around him for a deep playoff run?

Soft spot

The defence is a mixture of veteran retreads and unproven youngsters. The lanky Myers seems to be the real deal but he'll need some help back there.

Cap room

$6.15 million

Montreal Canadiens

Say hello to: G Alex Auld, C Lars Eller, C Dustin Boyd, RW Ian Schultz

Say goodbye to: G Jaroslav Halak, RW Sergei Kostitsyn, RW Gregory Stewart

On the mend: D Andrei Markov (knee) is expected to be out two months "although he has started practising again."

Insider Says

Scott Gomez and Tomas Plekanec disappeared during the playoffs, an alarming development in a city where underachievers are chewed up and spat out.

Pivotal player

G Carey Price

Maybe a better title for this category should be "On The Hotseat." The Habs made a controversial decision by shipping out fan favourite Jaroslav Halak in favour of Carey Price. This either will make the bosses look like geniuses, or it blow up in their faces.

2009-10 record: 39-33-10, fourth in division, eighth in conference

In a shootout

Mike Cammalleri

Brian Gionta

Andrei Kostitsyn

Burning question

Will Habs fans ever forgive Price for waving his arms in jest at them after being booed during Game 4 of their 2009 playoff series against the Boston Bruins?

Soft spot

After Gionta, Cammalleri, Plekanec and Gomez, where will the offence come from? Will the real Andrei Kostitsyn please stand up?

Cap room

$1.35 million

Ottawa Senators

Say hello to: D Sergei Gonchar

Say goodbye to: F Matt Cullen, D Andrei Volchenkov, RW Jonathan Cheechoo

On the mend: D Filip Kuba (broken foot) is out indefinitely

Insider says

This team still has a deep playoff run left in it. Sergei Gonchar will spruce up the power play and might be able to revive Jason Spezza's career at the same time.

Pivotal player

C Jason Spezza

Disturbed at being booed at times by the home fans, there was talk he might be moved during the off-season. But if both sides let bygones be bygones, Spezza can be one of the most productive talents in the league.

2009-10 record: 44-32-6, second in division, sixth in conference

In a shootout

Jason Spezza

Alexei Kovalev

Daniel Alfredsson

Burning question

Is the goaltending tandem of Pascal Leclaire and Brian Elliott effective enough to get the Sens past the first round?

Soft spot

Between Leclaire's brittle body and Elliott's inconsistency, someone needs to take the No. 1 job and run with it.

Cap room

$1.86 million

Toronto Maple Leafs

Say hello to: RW Colby Armstrong, D Brett Lebda, D Matt Lashoff, RW Kris Versteeg, RW Clarke MacArthur

Say goodbye to: C Jamie Lundmark, LW Viktor Stalberg, C Phillipe Paradis

On the mend: D Jeff Finger (knee) is day-to-day; D Matt Lashoff (shoulder) and D Brett Lebda (shoulder) are out at least one week

Insider says

Brian Burke has turned over this roster almost completely since taking over Nov. 29, 2008, but the cache of draft picks he handed over to the Bruins in the Phil Kessel trade will be carefully monitored.

Pivotal player

RW Phil Kessel

Burke forked over two first-round picks and a second-rounder to land the winger. Now it's up to this gifted goal scorer to prove on the scoresheet that he was worth it.

2009-10 record: 30-38-14, 5th in division, 15th in conference

In a Shootout

Phil Kessel

Nikolai Kulemin

Kris Versteeg

Burning question

Can J-S Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson be consistent enough to lead the Leafs to their first post-season appearance in six seasons?

Soft spot

There is not much scoring depth beyond the first two lines, meaning some of the youngsters will have to step up.

Cap room

$25,000

ATLANTIC DIVISION

New Jersey Devils

Say hello to: D Henrik Tallinder, C Jason Arnott, G Johan Hedberg, D Anton Volchenkov

Say goodbye to: C Rob Niedermayer, D Paul Martin, C Matt Halischuk

On the mend: D Anssi Salmela (knee) likely will be out two months

Insider says

GM Lou Lamoriello will have to do some fancy footwork to come under the cap after that whopping Ilya Kovalchuk contract. Still, this is a different Devils team -- one that potentially can light up the scoreboard every night.

Pivotal player

G Martin Brodeur

The NHL's winningest goalie showed the odd crack a year ago in his once-invincible armour, perhaps a sign his Hall of Fame career is winding down. If he can rekindle some of the old magic, the team could challenge for the Cup.

2009-10 record: 48-27-7, first in division, second in conference

In a shootout

Zach Parise

Travis Zajac

Ilya Kovalchuk

Burning question

Will the real Ilya Kovalchuk please introduce himself? If the enigmatic Russian pulls another disappearing act like he did in the playoffs, that monster contract will be even more of a joke.

Soft spot

The loss of Paul Martin leaves a void of puck-carrying defencemen, although Andy Greene did show some flashes last season.

Cap room

Over by $3.4 million

New York Islanders

Say hello to: D Mark Eaton, D Milan Jurcina, C Zenon Konopka, D James Wisniewski

Say goodbye to: LW Jeff Tambellini, G Martin Biron

On the mend: D Mark Streit (shoulder) could be out six months; F Kyle Okposo (shoulder) could miss three months; F Rob Schremp (back) is out at least three weeks.

Insider says

The Isles continue to muck around as if ownership is holding on to its money until a new rink is built ... IF a new rink is built. John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Matt Moulson have promising futures but after that, well ...

Pivotal player

G Rick DiPietro

In true bumbling Isles fashion, they opted to pick him as the face of the franchise when they inked him to a ridiculous 15-year $67.5-million US deal four years ago. He has been more like the face of the Red Cross, playing just 13 games the past two years after surgeries on both knees.

2009-10 record: 34-37-11, fifth in division, 13th in conference

In a shootout

John Tavares

Matt Moulson

Rob Schremp

Burning question

With top defenceman Mark Streit out of the lineup for months, how can the Isles be competitive with this rag-tag blue line?

Soft spot

Obviously the back end. A top four of Mark Eaton, Milan Jurcina, Radek Martinek and James Wisniewski won't scare anyone.

Cap room

$21.9 million

New York Rangers

Say hello to: G Martin Biron, LW Derek Boogaard, D Steve Eminger, LW Alexander Frolov, RW Ruslan Fedotenko

Say goodbye to: RW Aaron Voros, LW Jody Shelley, C Olli Jokinen, G Alex Auld

On the mend: C Chris Drury (broken index finger) likely will miss one month; RW Vinny Prospal (knee) is out indefinitely.

Insider says

Sending underachieving D Wade Redden and his huge contract to AHL Hartford showed guts on GM Glen Sather's part. It's surprising more GMs haven't done the same.

Pivotal player

LW Alexander Frolov

The enigmatic Frolov can be as talented as they come but has a reputation of taking a few nights off. There is not a lot of scoring depth here so he is going to have to be sharp.

2009-10 record: Fourth in division, ninth in conference

In a shootout

Alexander Frolov

Vinny Prospal

Marian Gaborik

Burning question

Will the Rangers burn out all-world goalie Henrik Lundqvist again, causing him to show signs of fatigue down the stretch?

Soft spot

Secondary scoring remains an issue. This is an example of a cap-era team that spent wads on its handful of top-end players, leaving little depth throughout the remainder of the roster.

Cap room

$1.5 million

Philadelphia Flyers

Say hello to: D Sean O'Donnell, LW Jody Shelly, D Andrej Meszaros, F Nikolai Zherdev, D Matt Walker

Say goodbye to: D Ryan Parent, LW Simon Gagne, D Danny Syvret

On the mend: D Chris Pronger (knee) hopes to be ready for the opener; F Ian Laperierre (post-concussion syndrome) is out indefinitely; G Michael Leighton (bulging disc, back) is expected to miss one month

Insider says

The Flyers are a legitimate contender in the East with heaps of talent, but that question mark looms in goal. Isn't that always the story with this franchise?

Pivotal player

D Chris Pronger

Having undergone knee surgery during the off-season, Pronger started skating with his teammates just a week before the start of the season. Considering he gobbled up the second-most minutes of any defenceman in the NHL in 2009-10, the Flyers need him healthy.

2009-10 record: 41-35-6, third in division, seventh in conference

In a shootout

Jeff Carter

Claude Giroux

Danny Briere

Burning question

With Michael Leighton out six weeks with a back problem, can Brian Boucher discover the fountain of youth and hold down the fort?

Soft spot

It sounds like a broken record, but goaltending, goaltending, goaltending. We're still wondering how Patrick Kane's bad-angle shot squeezed through Leighton to win the Blackhawks the Cup last spring.

Cap room

$878,000

Pittsburgh Penguins

Say hello to: D Zbynek Michalek, D Paul Martin, LW Ryan Craig

Say goodbye to: RW Bill Guerin, RW Alexei Ponikarovsky, D Dan Hamhuis, D Jordan Leopold, D Mark Eaton

On the mend: F Jordan Staal (foot) likely will miss 4-6 weeks

Insider says

While everyone points to the loss of Sergei Gonchar, the additions of Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin make this team better defensively, They might not have as much scoring depth, but Crosby, Malkin, Staal and Kunitz can carry the load.

Pivotal player

C/RW Evgeni Malkin

While Sid The Kid enjoyed a career year, Malkin faltered a bit, although you wouldn't know it by the fact he still finished among the top 10 in scoring. Nevertheless, he needs to pick up his game to where it was two years ago.

2009-10 record: 48-27-7, second in division, third in conference

In a shootout

Evgeni Malkin

Kris Letang

Sidney Crosby

Burning question

Which Marc-Andre Fleury will show up -- the one who led the Pens to the Cup in 2009 or the inconsistent guy who was wobbly in the playoffs last season?

Soft spot

Scoring depth. With Bill Guerin and Alexei Ponikarovsky no longer in the mix, secondary scoring becomes an issue.

Cap room

$1.7 million

SOUTHEAST DIVISION

Atlanta Thrashers

Say hello to: W/D Dustin Byfuglien, LW Andrew Ladd, LW Ben Eager, D Brent Sopel, G Chris Mason, LW Fredrik Modin, LW Nigel Dawes, GM Rick Dudley, coach Craig Ramsey

Say goodbye to: RW Colby Armstrong, LW Clarke MacArthur, G Johan Hedberg, D Pavel Kubina, RW Maxim Afinogenov, C Todd White, C Marty Reasoner, D Ivan Vishnevskiy, D Chris Chelios

On the mend: F Patrice Cormier (foot) is on injured reserve; F Nik Antropov (hip) is day-to-day; F Jim Slater (wrist) is out indefinitely

Insider says

A refreshing change of attitude arrives in the organization with the arrival of GM Rick Dudley and former Cup-winning Hawks Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager. But are they talented enough?

Pivotal player

G Chris Mason

Showed at times in St. Louis that he could be a legitimate No. 1 goalie, a welcome sight for a Thrashers franchise that had no choice but to pull the plug on the Kari Lehtonen/Johan Hedberg duo.

2009-10 record: 35-34-13, second in division, 10th in conference

In a shootout

Niclas Bergfors

Bryan Little

Nik Antropov

Burning question

Here in their first season of the post-Kovalchuk era, who will be the man to step up when the game is on the line?

Soft spot

While Zach Bogosian leads a young talented defence, there will be issues about scoring enough goals from a forward corps that lacks depth.

Cap room

$17.6 million

Carolina Hurricanes

Say hello to: D Joe Corvo, D Bobby Sanguinetti, C Riley Nash

Say goodbye to: LW Ray Whitney, C Rod Brind'Amour, D Tim Conboy

On the mend: RW Sergei Samsonov (neck) is day-to-day

Insider says

Goalie Cam Ward can win this team a lot of games, but Eric Staal needs some help up front if the Canes hope to reach the post-season.

Pivotal player

F Eric Staal

He's one of the truly elite talents in the league, a worthy member of the gold medal-winning Canadian Olympic team. The Canes have their franchise player, but can they supply him with an effective supporting cast?

2009-10 record: 35-37-10, third in division, 11th in conference

In a shootout

Jussi Jokinen

Sergei Samsonov

Eric Staal

Burning question

Can youngsters Brandon Sutter and Jiri Tlusty somehow fill the offensive void left by the departed Rod Brind'Amour and Ray Whitney?

Soft spot

With Joni Pitkanen being so brittle in recent years, depth on defence is a legitimate concern.

Cap room

$13 million

Florida Panthers

Say hello to: F Christopher Higgins, D Dennis Wideman, RW Steve Bernier, D Nathan Paetsch, C Marty Reasoner, GM Dale Tallon

Say goodbye to: C Nathan Horton, RW Gregory Campbell, D Keith Ballard, C Jeff Taffe, D Ville Koisinen, D Mathieu Roy

On the mend: F Mark Cullen (Achilles surgery) is out indefinitely

Insider says

GM Dale Tallon got rid of some staples -- Horton and Ballard -- but he compiled a nice cache of draft picks. The results probably won't be seen this season but at least the Panthers look like they have a future now.

Pivotal player

C Stephen Weiss

With Horton having gone to Boston, Weiss now becomes the prominent offensive force on a roster thirsting for goals. It's time to take the next step.

2009-10 record: 32-37-13, fifth in division, 14th in conference

In a shootout

Stephen Weiss

David Booth

Michael Frolik

Burning question

With such a dearth of established veteran talent, how many nights will G Tomas Vokoun be relied upon to save the day?

Soft spot

After Bryan Allen, Bryan McCabe and Dennis Wideman the depth on the blue line drops off dramatically.

Cap room

$9.9 million

Tampa Bay Lightning

Say hello to: D Pavel Kubina, D Brett Clark, C Marc-Antoine Pouliot, F Simon Gagne, G Dan Ellis, D Mathieu Roy

Say goodbye to: G Antero Niittymaki, C Zenon Konopka, D Kurtis Foster, LW Alex Tanguay, D Andrej Meszaros, Matt Walker, LW Ryan Craig, LW Todd Fedoruk

On the mend: D Paul Ranger (personal) is out indefinitely; D Mattias Ohlund (knee) is out two weeks.

Insider Says

Steve Yzerman coming in as general manager instantly gives this organization credibility. If the Bolts don't play for this guy, they won't play for anyone.

Pivotal player

C Vincent Lecavalier

Young Steven Stamkos has taken over as the dominant force of this team, but a return to form by Vinny certainly would give the Lightning one of the top one-two punches in the league.

2009-10 record: 34-36-12, fourth in division, 12th in conference

In a shootout

Vincent Lecavalier

Steven Stamkos

Martin St. Louis

Burning question

Can rookie coach Guy Boucher translate all this offensive talent into a post-season berth?

Soft spot

Tampa Bay goaltending hasn't struck fear into the opposition since Nikolai Khabibulin led the team to a Stanley Cup in 2004. We're not sure the duo of Mike Smith and Dan Ellis will change that trend.

Cap room

$9 million

Washington Capitals

Say hello to: RW Brian Willsie

Say goodbye to: D Milan Jurcina, C Alexandre Giroux, D Joe Corvo, C Kyle Wilson

On the mend: None

Insider says

GM George McPhee and coach Bruce Boudreau believe in their roster and have made minimal changes since last season. But if the Caps get knocked out in the first round again, well, there could be a housecleaning.

Pivotal player

RW Alex Ovechkin

Who else? Last season he was knocked out of the Olympics by the Canadians, then punted out of the playoffs by the Canadiens. Can you say "motivated?"

2009-10 record: 54-15-13, first in division, first in conference

In a shootout

Alexander Semin

Nicklas Backstrom

Alexander Ovechkin

Burning question

Can the Caps shed their reputation as post-season underachievers, a label that makes them bristle at the mere mention of it?

Soft spot

Can a team win a Stanley Cup with Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov in goal? We'll find out.

Cap room

$1.5 million


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