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10 storylines to watch entering 2019-20 season

Panthers' playoff push, Ovechkin's quest to 700 goals among highlights

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

The 2019-20 NHL season begins with four games Wednesday. There will be another 1,267 after that before the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin in mid-April.

Here are 10 of the biggest storylines to follow this season:


1. Lightning's response

Starting the season could be cathartic for the Tampa Bay Lightning, who tied an NHL record with 62 wins last season but were swept by Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference First Round. The Lightning have been dealing with the fallout since. It'll be a mental test for them to grind through 82 games to get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs to make up for it.


2. Panthers' push

The Florida Panthers are expected to make the playoffs. They hired coach Joel Quenneville, a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Chicago Blackhawks who is second in NHL history in wins (890) behind Scotty Bowman (1,244). They signed two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven-year contract on July 1. They're talented. They're deep. Now they have to win in a loaded Atlantic Division.


3. New faces in rivalry

The New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers each have new blood that should liven up their rivalry. Devils center Jack Hughes and Rangers right wing Kaapo Kakko, the first and second picks, respectively, in the 2019 NHL Draft, will be starting their careers and likely battling for the Calder Trophy. The Rangers signed forward Artemi Panarin to a seven-year contract and acquired defenseman Jacob Trouba in a trade from the Winnipeg Jets. The Devils acquired defenseman P.K. Subban in a trade from the Nashville Predators.

Video: NYR@NJD: Hughes pots early breakaway goal


4. Binnington's encore

Arguably the biggest question facing the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues is can goalie Jordan Binnington repeat his performance or, at least, come close to matching what he did last season? 

Binnington signed a two-year contract on July 13 after carrying the Blues to their first championship with a 2.46 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in 26 playoff appearances. He went 24-5-1 with a 1.89 GAA and .927 save percentage in the regular season to help pull the Blues out from last place in the NHL on Jan. 3.


5. Phil thrilling in the desert

Phil Kessel will try to score enough to help carry the Arizona Coyotes back to the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Kessel, the two-time Stanley Cup champion forward who has 823 points (357 goals, 466 assists) in 996 NHL games, was acquired in a trade from the Pittsburgh Penguins on June 29. The Coyotes needed a proven scorer after missing the playoffs last season by two points largely because they were 28th in goals-for per game (2.55).


6. Tippett, McDavid and the Oilers

Connor McDavid appears ready to start the season, which wasn't a sure thing heading into training camp for the Edmonton Oilers captain. The center tore the PCL in his left knee in the final game of last season against the Calgary Flames on April 6. How McDavid jells with coach Dave Tippett will help determine if the Oilers can be playoff contenders. Edmonton hired Tippett on May 28. He has 553 wins in 14 seasons.

Video: EDM@WPG: McDavid taps puck home on power play


7. Krueger, Eichel and the Sabres

Center Jack Eichel is on his third coach in five seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, who did not make the playoffs with either of the first two (Dan Bylsma and Phil Housley). Ralph Krueger was hired May 15, bringing him back to hockey after spending the previous five years as an executive in the English Premier League, one of professional soccer's biggest leagues. The Sabres haven't made the playoffs since the 2010-11 season, but there's optimism that they're moving in the right direction.


8. Stars add intrigue with age

The Stars are hoping three 30-something additions will be the key to unlocking a Stanley Cup run. They signed 35-year-old forward Joe Pavelski to a three-year contract July 1 after he scored 38 goals for the San Jose Sharks last season. They also signed 34-year-old forward Corey Perry, the Hart Trophy winner eight years ago, and 33-year-old defenseman Andrej Sekera to one-year contracts on July 1. Dallas reached the Western Conference Second Round last season before losing in seven games against the Blues.


9. Ovechkin's quest for 700

Alex Ovechkin needs 42 goals to become the eighth player in NHL history with 700 goals. Washington's captain scored 51 goals last season. The eight-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner as the NHL's leading goal-scorer is 13th on the League goals list. Another 50-goal season would move him into a tie for seventh with Mike Gartner (708 goals).

Video: Top 10 plays of 2018-19: Ovechkin


10. Solving the goalie problem for Flyers

Carter Hart will get a chance to prove he is the franchise goalie for the Philadelphia Flyers. They haven't had a goalie voted the Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL's best goalie since Ron Hextall in 1987 and haven't won the Stanley Cup since 1975. The 21-year-old Hart is the No. 1 now. He went 16-13-1 with a .917 save percentage and 2.83 GAA in 31 games (30 starts) as a rookie last season.

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