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2014-15 NHL season preview: Central Division
NHL
2014-15 NHL season preview: Central Division
Michael Blinn
Friday September 26th, 2014

• MORE CENTRAL PREVIEWS: Stars | Wild | Blues | Blackhawks | Predators | Jets

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SI.com's 2014-15 Preseason All-NHL Teams: first, second, third

COACH: Patrick Roy

2013-14 RECORD: 52-22-8, 112 points (first in Central; lost to Wild, 4-3, in first round)

VITAL SIGNS: 2.99 goals per game (4th); 2.63 goals-against per game (15th); 19.8 power play pct. (5th); 80.7 penalty kill pct (24th); shootout record: 5-4 (19th)

NOTABLE ARRIVALS: RW Jarome Iginla, F Jesse Winchester, C Daniel Briere, D Brad Stuart

NOTABLE DEPARTURES: C Paul Stastny, LW P.A. Parenteau

PROJECTED DEPTH CHART:

Forwards

Ryan O'Reilly — Matt Duchene — Jarome Iginla
Gabriel Landeskog — Nathan MacKinnon — Alex Tanguay
Max Talbot — John Mitchell — Daniel Briere
Cody McLeod — Jesse Winchester — Marc-Andre Cliche 
Joey Hishon

Defensemen
Brad Stuart — Erik Johnson
Jan Hejda — Tyson Barrie
Nick Holden — Ryan Wilson
Nate Guenin, Zach Redmond

Goalies
Semyon Varlamov
Reto Berra

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OUTLOOK: Patrick Roy, who bagged the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year last season, has plenty of work to do. After tying their franchise record of 52 wins and winning the Central, the Avs are now under pressure to improve on an impressive regular season that ended with a first round disappointment in the playoffs (their first appearance in four years). When center Paul Stastny walked to division rival St. Louis in free agency, Colorado signed right winger Jarome Iginla to a three-year deal worth $16 million. The move gives the Avs a power forward who's good for 25-30 goals and rugged power play minutes as well as a respected veteran leader who can mentor Colorado's stable of formidable young talent. Stastny's departure also allows Calder Trophy-winning wunderkind Nathan MacKinnon, 19, who looks primed for a monster season after spending the summer working out with Sidney Crosby and bulking up, to slide back to his natural center position on the second line for his sophomore campaign, a move that should make life easier for him. Veteran forward Daniel Briere was also brought in and given a chance to show that there's some tread left on his tires, add depth to the forward corps, and hopefully goose the third line's production. Despite J.S. Giguere's looming retirement, the Avs declined to sign a veteran netminder, instead entrusting former Flame Reto Berra to spell breakout star Semyon Varlamov, who must at least approximate his performance last season as a Vezina Trophy finalist because there are still questions about the quality of the defense in front of him.

• Roy expects tougher season this time

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jarome Iginla

At 37, Iginla is coming off his twelfth 30-goal season and he used his consistency to score a three-year deal with a team he hopes will deliver the first Stanley Cup of his long, productive career. While his hands still work just fine, his declining speed was exposed in the Bruins' second-round loss to the Canadiens. He'll have to prove that he can keep up with the Avs' young guns and is worth the big offseason money.

• Iginla offered assistant captain's role

PREDICTION: 97 points, fourth in Central (wild card 1)

• ATLANTIC PREVIEWS: Bruins | Canadiens | Maple Leafs | Lightning | Senators | Sabres | Panthers | Red Wings

• METROPOLITAN PREVIEWS: Capitals | Penguins | Flyers | Devils | Islanders | Blue Jackets | Hurricanes | Rangers

• PACIFIC PREVIEWS: Canucks | Sharks | Coyotes | Flames | Ducks | Oilers | Kings

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