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2012-2013 Season Preview

Islanders again hope for breakthrough season

Monday, 01.14.2013 / 3:00 AM / 2012-2013 Season Preview

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Expectations were high for the New York Islanders a season ago. They were coming off a strong second half in 2010-11 and appeared to be on the verge of bigger and better things.

Instead, the 2011-12 campaign provided more anguish. The Islanders stumbled through the month of November -- they won four of 13 games and were shut out four times -- and never fully recovered. They ended up finishing in the bottom five of the NHL standings for a fifth straight year.

"I think consistency had a big part in that," coach Jack Capuano told NHL.com over the summer regarding the team's shortcomings. "I thought that times throughout the year, our battle level was high and our will to compete was high, but special teams went through a little bit of a funk. We just didn't generate the offense like we did in the second half of the year.

"It's about coming to the rink every day to get better. We talk about these things and the intangibles for what it's going to take for our team to get to the postseason. Some of our younger players now are at that point now where I think they're going to take that next step."

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Flyers regroup after offseason plans fall through

Monday, 01.14.2013 / 3:00 AM / 2012-2013 Season Preview

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

In six years as general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers, Paul Holmgren had gotten used to getting the players he wanted.

Last summer, however, nothing went according to plan. Holmgren made big offers for free-agent forward Zach Parise and free-agent defenseman Ryan Suter, both of whom signed with the Minnesota Wild. And Holmgren's brashest move -- signing Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber to a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet -- didn't work out when the Predators matched the offer.

Holmgren also watched as Columbus Blue Jackets All-Star forward Rick Nash landed with the division-rival New York Rangers, and the GM lost two of his own free agents: top-line forward Jaromir Jagr left for the Dallas Stars, and puck-moving defenseman Matt Carle signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

That comes on the heels of the Flyers' disappointing five-game series loss to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

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Rangers hope Nash is final piece to Cup puzzle

Monday, 01.14.2013 / 3:00 AM / 2012-2013 Season Preview

Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

Rick Nash is the most important addition to the New York Rangers and arguably the best player to change NHL teams this offseason, with no disrespect to Zach Parise or Ryan Suter and the Minnesota Wild.

The Rangers petered out during last season's Eastern Conference Finals, losing to the New Jersey Devils in six games. One reason for them clearly running out of gas was the fact their first- and second-round series went seven games, when an offense that was slightly above average during the regular season (11th, 2.71 goals per game) became a hindrance in the postseason (2.15 GPG).

Adding Nash at the expense of Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first-round draft pick should help alleviate that problem.

Nash can play either left wing or right wing, and the 28-year-old has scored at least 30 goals in seven of his nine NHL seasons, reaching 40 twice. At 6-foot-4, 219 pounds and with great speed and hands, he has been creating his offense without the luxury of a top-end center for most of his career. That will change when he's riding shotgun with Brad Richards this season.

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Sabres can see tweaks leading back to playoffs

Sunday, 01.13.2013 / 10:00 AM / 2012-2013 Season Preview

John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist

The Buffalo Sabres did a lot of shopping last summer only to come up empty in the Eastern Conference playoff race. In preparing for the 2012-13 season, they opted to pull in the reins.

Owner Terry Pegula, who opened his checkbook last summer to bring in forward Ville Leino and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, opted not to make any management changes -- meaning Darcy Regier and Lindy Ruff, the NHL's longest-running GM-coach duo, will be back this season. So will No. 1 goaltender Ryan Miller, the top four on defense, and the three top scorers: Jason Pominville (73 points), Thomas Vanek (61) and Drew Stafford (50).

It took a while for the newcomers to mesh last season. For the second year in a row, the Sabres got off to a slow start. But unlike 2010-11, when they overcame a bad start to make the playoffs, they weren't able to dig out of their early hole this time and finished ninth, three points out of the last postseason berth in the East.

Instead of going through a second summertime shakeup, Regier opted to bring back most of last season's cast, including late-season acquisition Cody Hodgson, who should slot in as one of the top two centers.

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Horton's return, Ott's grit could shape Northeast

Sunday, 01.13.2013 / 10:00 AM / 2012-2013 Season Preview

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

With the 2012-13 NHL season ready to begin, teams will be scrambling on a nightly basis to earn points and clinch a spot in what is primed to be a wild 48-game race to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

A condensed schedule means more games in a short amount of time, and teams will be relying on every player on their roster to contribute. NHL.com takes a closer look at the players who will need to be major factors for Northeast Division squads:

Nathan Horton, Boston Bruins -- A concussion last Jan. 22 sidelined the power forward for the remainder of the 2011-12 season, but Horton has since been cleared by doctors and is ready to roll. How vital is his presence? The Bruins averaged 3.54 goals per game in the 46 games prior to Horton's injury and 2.69 goals per game after he was hurt. They were 31-13-2 before the injury and 18-16-2 afterward, and were ousted from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Washington Capitals in the opening round.

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Nonis now GM, Leafs look to end playoff drought

Sunday, 01.13.2013 / 10:00 AM / 2012-2013 Season Preview

Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

For a team that now holds the unwanted label of having the longest playoff drought in the NHL, there wasn't a major move made by the Toronto Maple Leafs during the offseason.

At least, not until Wednesday.

After three-and-a-half seasons as general manager, Brian Burke was relieved of his duties and replaced by senior vice president of hockey operations Dave Nonis. Burke will stay on as a senior adviser to MLSE president and COO Tom Anselmi, but Nonis assumes the title of Toronto's senior vice president and general manager.

"At the end of the day it was looking for a different voice, a different leadership approach," Anselmi said.

Despite the change in the GM's role, the Maple Leafs enter the 2012-13 season with a roster built by Burke, but that doesn't mean Nonis won't shake things up before Toronto's first game.

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Canadiens hope changes trigger return to playoffs

Sunday, 01.13.2013 / 10:00 AM / 2012-2013 Season Preview

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

In the past 18 months, the Montreal Canadiens have dealt with more hardships, turmoil and upheaval than perhaps any comparable period in the organization's long and successful history.

Since August 2011, the Canadiens have waved goodbye to two coaches (Jacques Martin and Randy Cunneyworth), a general manager (Pierre Gauthier), a former playoff hero (Michael Cammalleri), two veteran defensemen (Hal Gill and Jaroslav Spacek), an underachieving yet talented forward (Andrei Kostitsyn) and -- most importantly -- the team's four-year streak of playoff appearances.

In a two-year span, the Canadiens went from being one of the final four teams left in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs to finishing last in their conference for the first time in franchise history.

An overhaul was not only necessary, it was welcomed.

The 2012-13 season will be the first chapter of the Marc Bergevin regime in Montreal, and the team's new general manager wasted little time putting his stamp on the Canadiens.

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What key questions face Northeast Division teams?

Sunday, 01.13.2013 / 10:00 AM / 2012-2013 Season Preview

NHL.com Staff

The wait for the 2012-13 season is nearly over. What questions do each NHL team need to answer to be successful, and do they have the resources to provide said responses? Well, let's take a division-by-division look at some of the key quandaries for each NHL franchise as the campaign beckons. Next up is the Northeast Division, where four teams continue to chase the Boston Bruins.

Bruins BOSTON BRUINS

The Boston Bruins have some question marks heading into the season, but none are likely of a make-or-break nature for a team that has had a stranglehold on the Northeast Division for the past two years and doesn't appear to be on the verge of relinquishing it. Still, with a new starting goaltender, a sniper returning from injury, a young defenseman attempting to make a big jump to the NHL, and a chronic deficiency still unresolved, the Bruins do have some issues that need to be dealt with.

1. Is Rask ready for Tuukka Time?

The Bruins' ties with Tim Thomas were cut a year earlier than expected when the quirky goaltender informed Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli after the season ended that he would be taking a year off from hockey.

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Senators aim to build off bounce-back season

Sunday, 01.13.2013 / 10:00 AM / 2012-2013 Season Preview

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

The Ottawa Senators took their fans on an incredible roller coaster ride last season, one general manager Bryan Murray believes was started by having such a young team that was also adjusting to life with a new coach.

Faced with very low expectations coming off a season when the Senators finished 13th in the Eastern Conference (19 points out of a playoff spot), Ottawa began as everyone expected with a 1-5-0 start.

However, that was followed by a six-game winning streak, then a five-game skid and a three-game winning streak, providing an early indication of how the Senators would play a season marked by extreme peaks and valleys, culminating in a Game 7 defeat in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the hands of the top-seeded New York Rangers.

But with coach Paul MacLean's system -- based heavily on conditioning and relentless skating -- now installed, and with a lot more stability on the roster, Murray hopes the Senators' surprise success last season can carry over to the beginning of this one.

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Bruins stand pat after early playoff exit

Sunday, 01.13.2013 / 10:00 AM / 2012-2013 Season Preview

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli was faced with an interesting quandary entering this offseason.

On the one hand, his team was coming off a first-round defeat in the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the hands of the underdog Washington Capitals, albeit one that required a Game 7 overtime goal by Joel Ward. It was a bitterly disappointing loss for a Bruins team that not only had aspirations of winning the Stanley Cup for a second straight season, but also had a realistic chance of doing so.

Such a sour end to the campaign could have pushed Chiarelli to do something drastic in an effort to improve his club during the offseason.

But he did no such thing.

Instead, he showed his players he believed in them by sticking with the core group and re-signing the key free agents among them -- Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley, Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell and Johnny Boychuk. Then the GM showed even more confidence in the man leading that group, signing coach Claude Julien to a multiyear contract extension in July to avoid having him enter this season with the "lame duck" label.

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Quote of the Day

It was the look in his eyes. Hockey is the most important thing in his life. He wants to be a hockey player, and nothing's going to stop him from being a hockey player.

— Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin on forward Alex Galchenyuk's potential