NASHVILLE -- The Nashville Predators didn't get much offensive production from their third line last season, but they're hoping some new additions will change that in 2015-16.
The forwards are the biggest question mark in Nashville, but they performed well in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs and should get plenty of scoring chances playing in coach Peter Laviolette's up-tempo system.
Here are three X-factors that will impact whether the Predators can build on last season and make a run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs:
This is the preseason edition of the Super 16. It will return on Oct. 16, nine days after the start of the regular season, and will run every Friday for the duration of the season.
Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos' words at the time he said them, last month during the NHL's Player Media Tour, a week before training camps would get going, seemed like nothing more than an elite player trying to stay humble about his clearly impressive team.
"The goal should just be the same as it was last year, just getting to the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs," Stamkos told NHL.com. "It's so hard now that it's wrong to start thinking we made it to the [Stanley Cup] Final and we'll be right back in that position."
It's become a habit to dismiss the Buffalo Sabres and any iota of a chance they have of reaching the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They've averaged a shade over 21 wins the past three seasons, and in each of the previous two finished at or near the bottom of the NHL in most offensive and special-team categories.
But there are precedents of teams making quantum leaps in the NHL standings. The Montreal Canadiens ascended from the Eastern Conference basement to a first-place finish in the Northeast Division in 2013. A season later, the Colorado Avalanche rose from 29th in the League (39 points in 48 games) to 112 points and the Central Division title. An extreme example is the 1992-93 San Jose Sharks, whose 58-point jump from the season before remains the biggest turnaround in League history.
A 58-point jump is asking too much, but there's no denying the excitement in Buffalo, where there are expectations for the Sabres to make noise in the East. The additions of Evander Kane, Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly fortified a group of forwards that already included Tyler Ennis, Matt Moulson, Zemgus Girgensons and Sam Reinhart, putting them in position to significantly increase their NHL-worst 153 goals from last season. Defenseman Cody Franson, who signed a two-year contract Sept. 10, should spark a power play that finished 30th at 13.4 percent.
NHL.com continues its preview of the 2015-16 season, which begins Wednesday, Oct. 7.
Summer may be the most enjoyable time of the season for many people, but NHL teams want to put off its start for as long as possible.
For the six Western Conference teams that missed out on the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoff party, their goal since the second week of April has been figuring out how to extend their seasons into May -- or even June, like the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
So how can the teams that missed the fun turn into postseason hits? With the regular season nearing its start, NHL.com today examines why fans of the unlucky six can hold on to their playoff hopes:
TORONTO -- Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman finally ended his near six-year chase to catch up to his high expectations in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.
All it did for him was create even higher expectations going into this season.
"The one thing with Victor is he's always been blessed with these physical tools. But with him I think it came down to opportunity and then it came down to in some part believing he can be in that upper echelon of defenseman," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Now Victor is so much more comfortable with himself and playing the game that I think what we're going to see is him playing at a consistently high level will be the norm now. Maybe that's the expectation of him now. Maybe it is."
"I feel like an organization like the Rangers has pressure to win a championship every single year," Nash said Thursday during an appearance at the NHL Powered by Reebok Store to celebrate the release of the first-ever Playmobil NHL figures and playsets. "I think [coach Alain Vigneault] is right when he says failure is not an option. We've been close, and in this business close isn't good enough. We have to be able to get the job done.
All won the most coveted of prizes -- the Stanley Cup® Championship -- and the Vezina Trophy, recognizing the NHL's best goalkeeper. All changed the way the game was played or perceived, making them larger-than-life figures.
Messier, who works as a hockey adviser for the Oilers, was here to watch McDavid and the Oilers host the Vancouver Canucks in a preseason game at Rexall Place.
"This is the first time I've seen him live -- obviously, I follow the games on TV -- so I'm looking forward to it," Messier said following the Oilers morning skate. "Meeting Connor this summer and shooting the [Rogers Communications] commercials together, I got to see what a great young man he is and I know he's excited to get the season started."
[Stamkos] is a great teammate and a great leader, that's why he's got the 'C'. He brings that tremendous work ethic to the rink and he's one of the top players in the game. I know if I put the passes where they are supposed to be, there's a very good chance he's going to put it in the back of the net.
— Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin on linemate Steven Samkos
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