October 01, 2014

ATLANTIC DIVISION

BOSTON BRUINS:

LAST SEASON: 54-19-9, 117 points, most in the NHL. Lost to Montreal Canadiens in second round of playoffs.

COACH: Claude Julien, eighth season in Boston (310-165-65); 12th overall in NHL.

ADDED: F Simon Gagne, G Niklas Svedberg.

LOST: F Jarome Iginla, F Shawn Thornton, G Chad Johnson.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Defenseman Zdeno Chara is 37, and it's not clear how long his 6-foot-9 body can hold up. He played in 77 games, but had the least time on the ice (in a non-lockout season) since his arrival in Boston in 2006, and his fewest points and penalty minutes as a Bruin, too. He finished the season with a broken finger. Still, he was a finalist for the Norris Trophy, which he won in 2009.

OUTLOOK: After winning the Stanley Cup in 2011 and returning to the finals two seasons later, the Bruins posted the NHL's best record last season but were knocked out of the playoffs by the rival Canadiens in seven games in the second round. The Bruins return essentially the same team, including Selke Trophy winner Patrice Bergeron and Vezina winner Tuukka Rask, who led the league with seven shutouts, finished second with a .930 save percentage and was fourth with a 2.03 goals-against average.

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BUFFALO SABRES

LAST SEASON: 21-51-10, 52 points. Missed the playoffs by finishing 16th in the Eastern Conference.

COACH: Ted Nolan, 4th season with Sabres (including 1995-97), 90-98-28; 6th overall in NHL.

ADDED: RW Brian Gionta, LW Matt Moulson, C Sam Reinhart, D Josh Gorges, D Andrej Meszaros, C Cody McCormick, D Andre Benoit.

LOST: LW Ville Leino, D Christian Ehrhoff, D Henrik Tallinder, RW Matt D'Agostini, LW John Scott, C Zenon Konopka.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Reinhart. Selected with the No. 2 pick in the draft in June, the son of former NHLer Paul Reinhart is being given every opportunity to crack the season-opening lineup before his 19th birthday on Nov. 6. He was a play-making forward during three-plus seasons in the Western Hockey League, and is being counted upon to add immediate offense to a team that scored a post-NHL-expansion-era low 150 goals.

OUTLOOK: The Sabres can't be much worse after setting a franchise record for losses during a tumultuous season in which they changed their coach and general manager, and purged much of their veteran core, including trading goalie Ryan Miller. They've added veteran leadership (Gionta and Gorges) to complement their youth movement. And yet, the Sabres have too many questions marks - particularly in net, where Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth are competing for the starting job - to consider them playoff contenders.

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DETROIT RED WINGS

LAST SEASON: 39-28-15, 93 points. Lost in first round of playoffs.

COACH: Mike Babcock, 10th season with Red Wings, 415-198-91; 12th overall in NHL.

ADDED: C Andy Miele, C Kevin Porter.

LOST: RW Mikael Samuelsson, C Cory Emmerton, C David Legwand, RW Todd Bertuzzi.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Gustav Nyquist. The 25-year-old Swede is coming off a breakout season in which he scored a team-high 28 goals in only 57 games. If the Red Wings are going to return to the NHL's elite, they're going to need younger players like Nyquist to grow into significant roles alongside aging stars like Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.

OUTLOOK: If injuries mount like last season, the Red Wings may have to fight down the stretch to extend their streak of 23 straight playoff appearances. Datsyuk is expected to miss the start of the regular season with a separated shoulder.

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FLORIDA PANTHERS

LAST SEASON: 29-45-8, 66 points. Missed the playoffs by finishing 15th in the Eastern Conference.

COACH: Gerald Gallant, 1st season with Panthers; 4th overall in NHL, 56-76-4.

ADDED: C Jussi Jokinen, C Dave Bolland, D Willie Mitchell, G Al Montoya, C Derek MacKenzie, LW Shawn Thornton.

LOST: D Tom Gilbert, C Scott Gomez, C Marcel Goc, D Ed Jovanovski, G Tim Thomas, G Scott Clemmensen, G Jacob Markstrom.

PLAYER TO WATCH: G Roberto Luongo. For as much as the Panthers are talking about scoring more goals and improving special teams - and rightly so - Florida's hopes hinge upon one of the most popular players in team history. If Luongo is great, the Panthers could be a playoff team. If he struggles, so will Florida.

OUTLOOK: So much has to change quickly for Florida to get in playoff contention, but the Panthers went out and tried during the offseason to revamp just about everything from locker-room mood to on-ice style. Opening with five road games in the season's first seven outings may set the tone.

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MONTREAL CANADIENS

LAST SEASON: 46-28-8, 100 points; lost to New York Rangers in Eastern Conference final.

COACH: Michel Therrien, seventh season with Canadiens, 287-224-23-58.

ADDED: D Tom Gilbert, C Manny Malhotra, RW P.A. Parenteau, RW Jiri Sekac.

LOST: C Daniel Briere, RW Brian Gionta, D Josh Gorges, LW Thomas Vanek.

PLAYER TO WATCH: P.K. Subban: The 43rd overall pick in the 2007 draft solidified his status as a top-five defenseman in the NHL following a 2013-14 regular season in which he recorded 53 points (10 goals, 43 assists) in 82 games, and added another 11 (five goals and six assists) in 17 playoff games. And he isn't going anywhere. The Canadiens and Subban agreed to an eight-year, $72 million contract in the offseason.

OUTLOOK: The Canadiens earned the ire of playoff foes Boston and New York for on-ice antics and their off-ice loquaciousness. But teams don't dislike opponents who aren't good. The Canadiens are just that, and should find themselves in the playoffs come April.

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OTTAWA SENATORS

LAST SEASON: 37-31-14, 88 points, finished 11th in the Eastern Conference and missed the playoffs.

COACH: Paul MacLean, fourth season with Ottawa, 102-79-30.

ADDED: RW Alex Chiasson, C David Legwand.

LOST: RW Alex Hemsky, C Jason Spezza.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Bobby Ryan. The right winger is in the final year of a five-year, $25.5 million deal, and according to general manager Bryan Murray has decided to wait before determining whether to re-sign. Murray noted the sides will talk ''in October or November to get something done.''

OUTLOOK: It was only 2012 and 2013 when many thought Ottawa was a franchise on the ascent after back-to-back playoff appearances. Now the Senators are facing an uncertain future as Ottawa lost centers Daniel Alfredsson and Spezza the last two offseasons. There is a very real possibility the organization may have to deal Ryan and Methot during the season if the players cannot come to terms with the team. It is not a playoff formula.

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TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

LAST SEASON: 46-27-9, 101 points. Swept in first round of playoffs by Montreal.

COACH: Jon Cooper, second full season with Lighting, 51-35-12.

ADDED: F Brian Boyle, F Brenden Morrow, D Anton Stralman, D Jason Garrison, G Evgeni Nabokov, F Jonathan Drouin.

LOST: G Anders Lindback, F Ryan Malone, F Teddy Purcell, F Nate Thompson, D Sami Salo.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Ondrej Palat. One of the NHL's top rookies last season. With Steven Stamkos missing a significant portion of the year and Martin St. Louis departing in a late-season trade, Palat finished with team-leading 50 points, including 23 goals. Third among league rookies in goals and second in points, he led all rookies with 44 points after Jan. 1.

OUTLOOK: With Bishop healthy again after missing the playoffs with a dislocated elbow, many expect the Lightning to prosper in the relatively weak Eastern Conference and make a deep run in the playoffs. Stamkos has scored more goals (210) than any player in the league since the start of the 2009-10 season and Bishop is coming off a season in which he set franchise season records for wins (37), save percentage (.924) and goals-against average (2.23).

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TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

LAST SEASON: 38-6-8, 84 points, finished 12th in the East and missed the playoffs.

COACH: Randy Carlyle, fifth season with the Leafs, 343-244-77.

ADDED: RW Matt Frattin, C Leo Komarov, D Roman Polak, D Stephane Robidas, C Mike Santorelli.

LOST: C Dave Bolland, D Tim Gleason, D Carl Gunnerson, C Jay McClement, RW Nikolai Kulemin, LW Mason Raymond.

PLAYER TO WATCH: David Clarkson. The right winger's first season with his boyhood team was one he'd rather forget. Clarkson had with 11 points (five goals and six assists) in 60 games with a minus-14 rating after agreeing to a seven-year, $36.75 million deal with Toronto.

OUTLOOK: The hirings of Brendan Shanahan as team president, Kyle Dubas as the assistant general manager and the added emphasis of analytics seem to indicate a new day for the Leafs. But much of the team that lost 12 of their final 14 games last season has returned. Coupled with the fact that the Leafs are in a division with 2013-14 playoff teams in Boston, Tampa Bay, Montreal and Detroit, it's hard to envision a scenario in which Toronto shows enough improvement to contend for a postseason berth in 2014-15.

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