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Trotz-Ovechkin bond among Capitals' five questions

Monday, 08.04.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

A new general manager (Brian MacLellan), new coach (Barry Trotz) and two high-priced veteran additions to the blue line (Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik) indicate the Capitals will have a new look this season after their streak of six consecutive appearances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs came to an end last season.

However, the final answers to the following five questions ultimately will determine if Washington's new path will lead to the postseason:

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Versatile Laich eager to help Capitals again

Monday, 08.04.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Washington Capitals forward Brooks Laich couldn't wait for Monday to come. It's the day he's finally scheduled to hit the ice and incorporate skating into his offseason training regimen.

It's been two years since Laich has been as energized and excited to lace 'em up as he is now; two very hard, painful, injury-riddled years to be exact.

"Now when I step on the ice I feel completely free as opposed to very limited, like the last two years," Laich told NHL.com.

This can only be viewed as fantastic news for the Capitals.

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New regime aims to get more out of Capitals lineup

Monday, 08.04.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

For the first time in seven seasons the Washington Capitals did not make the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2013-14. That led to some substantial changes.

Brian MacLellan became the third general manager in the past 32 years, replacing long-tenured George McPhee. Barry Trotz became the fourth coach in the past 30 months, a fact that had a lot to do with MacLellan's promotion from assistant GM.

When Adam Oates was hired to coach in Washington, the mission statement seemed to be "Fix Alex Ovechkin, fix the Capitals." Ovechkin scored lots of goals for Oates and the power play often was incredible. But pretty much everything else, from possession to goal prevention to penalty killing and secondary scoring, was far from incredible. The Capitals slipped in 2012-13 and sunk in 2013-14, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

There's a new regime, a new system and some new players. There is better depth on defense but not necessarily up front. Will the changes result in a return to the postseason?

Here's a look at the projected 2014-15 lineup for the Capitals:

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Dynamic Burakovsky leads Capitals' top 10 prospects

Monday, 08.04.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

With a new general manager in Brian MacLellan and a new coach in Barry Trotz, training camp will be a clean slate for the Washington Capitals.

That includes a talented group of prospects that will be looking to impress the new staff and potentially earn NHL jobs.

"With all these younger guys, they have to prove to the coaches that they deserve to stay," assistant general manager Ross Mahoney said.

Here's a look at the Capitals' top 10 prospects, according to NHL.com:

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Kessel confident in Maple Leafs' chances this season

Sunday, 08.03.2014 / 5:02 PM / NHL Insider

Phil Kessel
Right Wing - TOR
GOALS: 37 | ASST: 43 | PTS: 80
SOG: 305 | +/-: -5
The Toronto Maple Leafs ended last season with 12 losses in their final 14 games to settle for a disappointing 12th place finish in the Eastern Conference. But given the plethora of changes on the ice and in the front office, forward Phil Kessel believes the Maple Leafs are now in a better position to make a run at the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I think we had a good team," Kessel told the Canadian Press following Sportsnet's Ball Hockey Challenge at Rexall Centre in Toronto, where he and other NHL players played ball hockey with tennis star Roger Federer. "We were there last year. We had a bad stretch. We don't have that stretch, we're right in it."

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Lightning coach tries to downplay expectations

Sunday, 08.03.2014 / 10:21 AM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - NHL.com Staff Writer

Despite losing star player Steven Stamkos for four months with a broken leg and trading captain Martin St. Louis, the Tampa Bay Lightning surprised the NHL and posted the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. Now, after acquiring a group of veterans during the offseason, the Lightning enter 2014-15 among the favorites to make a prolonged run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Just don't expect their coach to say so.

"Make us seem like just a nice, humble, go-lucky Tampa Bay Lightning," Jon Cooper told NHL.com. "Not like we're going to come out and kick everybody's [behind]."

Last season, Cooper discovered a franchise goaltender, Ben Bishop, and led Tampa Bay, which played nine rookies, to the playoffs for the first time in three years. In his first full season, Cooper was named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top coach.

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Devils' lineup boasts depth up front, youth on defense

Sunday, 08.03.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

Since the Los Angeles Kings defeated the New Jersey Devils in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, the Kings have played 44 Stanley Cup Playoff games and won a second championship in three seasons.

That is 44 more games than the Devils, who missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1985-86 and 1986-87. Ten of the 24 players who appeared in at least one playoff game during New Jersey's 2012 run remain with the team.

The two stars of that 2012 group, Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk, left in successive summers, and it appears the franchise's most iconic player, goaltender Martin Brodeur, has played his last game with the Devils. If losing Parise and Kovalchuk didn't signal the start of a new era, moving on without Brodeur certainly does.

New Jersey general manager Lou Lamoriello made one of the best signings of the 2013 offseason when Jaromir Jagr joined the Devils. He became their best player and fortified his status as one of the all-time great forwards. Lamoriello tried to add some options up front this offseason and turned the net over to Cory Schneider on a full-time basis.

The Metropolitan Division looks wide open behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, so a return to the postseason is certainly plausible and maybe even likely if the veterans up front can remain productive and healthy and Schneider confirms a place among the elite goaltenders in the League by finally having the chance to assume a large workload.

Here's a look at the projected 2014-15 lineup for the Devils:

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Devils' top 10 prospects paced by Boucher, Matteau

Sunday, 08.03.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Opportunity always knocks for those top prospects in the pipeline for the New Jersey Devils.

In 2013-14 the Devils recalled six players from their American Hockey League affiliate in Albany to replace injured starters. A seventh player, defenseman Seth Helgeson, was recalled on an emergency basis and practiced with the team but never got into a game.

"I think the organization sets the table with opportunity; that's the one thing I've seen over the three years I've been here," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "Some of the young players grabbed it and ran with it like Jon Merrill and Adam Henrique, and some haven't yet. We need a few of these guys to do that this year."

One area the Devils have successfully stocked with A-grade prospects is along the blue line. Merrill and Eric Gelinas stepped in nicely when called upon last season, and it appears several others are ready to make the jump.

"I would put our defensive depth up against any other organization in the NHL," DeBoer said. "It's a long list of guys that are either able to play or have the potential to play very soon."

Here's a look at the Devils' top 10 prospects, according to NHL.com:

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Schneider as No. 1 among Devils' five questions

Sunday, 08.03.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

After failing to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs a second straight season, New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer organized a meeting with his staff to pinpoint what went right and wrong in 2013-14.

In addition to their team, they discussed the success of the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings and the resurgence of the Eastern Conference champion New York Rangers.

"You're always looking for things you could do differently in order to make sure you're back in that group of elite teams the following season," DeBoer said. "I think it's a healthy exercise in finding ways not only to improve your own team but give some perspective. This is a tough League to make the playoffs, so just because you miss the playoffs doesn't mean you're a poor team. We did a lot of good things last year; we just have to find an extra edge."

Here are five questions facing the Devils:

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Gelinas' development critical to Devils' success

Sunday, 08.03.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer believes defenseman Eric Gelinas has the potential to be something very special.

Gelinas gave Devils fans reason to get excited about the future after scoring seven goals and 29 points in 60 regular-season games as a rookie in 2013-14.

An injury to captain Bryce Salvador early in the season gave Gelinas a roster spot and an opportunity to showcase his cannon shot from the point on the power play. Gelinas turned out to be a catalyst for the Devils, ranking second on the team among defensemen in goals (five) and points (17) on the power play. The Devils finished ninth in the NHL with a 19.5 percent efficiency and the 23-year-old played a key role.

If Gelinas can prove his first year in the League was no fluke and improve in a few areas, the Devils will certainly be in a much better standing in the Eastern Conference in April.

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Quote of the Day

It's always a little bit weird, but it moves on. They've got a good team, and they played well tonight. I think that's just part of it.

— Peter Laviolette on facing his former team (Flyers) for the first time since his departure