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Eastern camps: Devils' follow-up, Rask's chance

by Dan Rosen /

The New Jersey Devils will raise their fifth Eastern Conference championship banner into the Prudential Center rafters, but the questions about Peter DeBoer's team heading into training camp suggest they're no sure thing to get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Devils, who reached the 2012 Stanley Cup Final as a sixth-seed, signed all but one of their unrestricted free agents -- but it just so happens the one who walked is Zach Parise, who famously signed a 13-year, $98 million contract with the Minnesota Wild this summer.

Who will pick up the slack left behind by the Devils' former captain, who had 31 goals and 38 assists last season?

New Jersey's goaltending is usually never in doubt, but maybe it's finally fair to wonder if 40-year-old Martin Brodeur can continue to spit in the face of Father Time, as he did last spring.

Ilya Kovalchuk reportedly is set to play in the KHL All-Star Game on Sunday in Russia. Will he show up for camp? Is he fully on board?

Adam Henrique is rehabbing from a thumb injury he suffered while playing in the American Hockey League. When will he return? Will he be able to build on the success he had as a rookie?

Of course, the Devils are not the only team with questions to answer and a very short training camp to do so.

Here's a training-camp guide for storylines worth keeping an eye on in the Eastern Conference:

2012-13 Season Preview

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Dan Rosen - Senior Writer
Can the Kings repeat as champs? Will a new coach reignite Alex Ovechkin? Those are just two of the top storylines as the NHL prepares for a shortened 2012-13 season. READ MORE ›


We've already gone over the issues DeBoer has to deal with. There are far fewer in front of New York Rangers coach John Tortorella and Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma.

The big question in New York is how will Rick Nash fit in? Tortorella doesn't think it's a question at all because he sees a low-maintenance star who is hungry to win.

Nash didn't do much winning with the Columbus Blue Jackets, but with the Rangers he'll get a chance to play with Brad Richards and perhaps Marian Gaborik.

The Rangers still have to sign defenseman Michael Del Zotto, who is a restricted free agent. Provided they do, New York's defense corps in front of Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Henrik Lundqvist will be complete.

In Pittsburgh, Bylsma finally doesn't have to answer questions about Sidney Crosby's health or Evgeni Malkin's knees. Instead, the work that needs to be done is on the back end, where the Penguins were exposed in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals by the Philadelphia Flyers. They scored 26 goals in six games on Marc-Andre Fleury, who was full of holes and didn't get much help in front of him.

Tomas Vokoun is in Pittsburgh now and will push Fleury.

The Flyers have a formidable attack up front, but Danny Briere could miss the start of the season with a wrist injury, and they'll have to replace Jaromir Jagr, who had chemistry with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell but departed for a richer contract from the Dallas Stars.

It'll be interesting to watch the continued development of Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier. Just as interesting will be to see if Zac Rinaldo can keep himself under control to be an effective bottom-six forward. All three were playing in the AHL for Adirondack.

The questions are on defense and in goal, where Ilya Bryzgalov will have to prove he can handle life in the pressure-cooker that is Philadelphia. He failed most of the time last season.

The Islanders hope to have defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky on their roster, but that's in doubt as he is still playing for HC Slovan in the KHL and reportedly threatened to stay there despite an agreement between the NHL and KHL to honor contracts.

Nino Niederreiter, the Islanders' top pick in 2010, could be the most interesting player in their camp. He played well for Bridgeport in the AHL (33 points), perhaps proving he's ready to be a full-time NHL player.

And will Ryan Strome and Griffin Reinhart -- New York's 2011 and 2012 first-round picks, respectively -- impress enough to earn roster spots?


Tuukka Rask
Tuukka Rask
Goalie - BOS
RECORD: 11-8-3
GAA: 2.05 | SVP: 0.929

The Boston Bruins are still the favorite here, even without Tim Thomas in net. Tuukka Rask has been preparing to be the No. 1 goalie and now he'll get his shot.

The key player to watch in Bruins' camp is prospect Dougie Hamilton. Boston's first-round pick in 2011 is coming off a solid showing for Canada at the World Junior Championship. Hamilton is Boston's top prospect, and many believe the 6-foot-5, 200-pound 19-year-old is ready for the NHL.

The Ottawa Senators will have to prove last season was not a fluke, that they are a real contender and only getting better. The Senators appear to be trending up, but a possible season-ending injury to towering defenseman Jared Cowen will force coach Paul MacLean to adjust the blue line.

Ottawa native Mark Borowiecki will be one to watch in training camp because he may have the inside track to a roster spot.

Just like it is with Hamilton in Boston, the Buffalo Sabres are interested to see what kind of camp 18-year-old center Mikhail Grigorenko will have.

Grigorenko, the No. 12 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft who is tearing up the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, will get a chance to play a top-six role with Buffalo. The pressure, though, is on Grigorenko to quickly prove he's ready to coach Lindy Ruff and general manager Darcy Regier because of how condensed training camp is.

The Montreal Canadiens underwent significant changes with the hiring of a general manager (Marc Bergevin) and a coach (Michel Therrien). The short camp will not help Therrien, who has to try to implement a brand-new system.

However, the big question heading into camp is when, or will, defenseman P.K. Subban sign his new contract. Subban, a restricted free agent, has said he wants to be in camp on Day One and Bergevin is on record saying he wants that to happen.

The Toronto Maple Leafs' front office will be the ones to watch early in training camp as the only story people are talking about is their potential (and we stress potential) trade for Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo.


Can new Capitals' coach Adam Oates reinvigorate Alex Ovechkin?. (Photo: Getty Images)

The relationship between Adam Oates and Alex Ovechkin should determine if the Washington Capitals will be able to have a smooth transition to their new coach.

Oates, a Hall of Fame player, will finally get to impart his knowledge of offense on Ovechkin, whose production has been down an average of nearly 16 goals in each of the past two seasons. Look for Oates to concentrate on the power play, but it may be difficult if the Capitals have to start the season without center Nicklas Backstrom.

Backstrom is dealing with the after-effects of a hit he took while playing with Ovechkin in the KHL. If the Capitals don't have Backstrom, Mike Ribeiro, who was acquired this summer, likely will have to become the No. 1 center.

The Florida Panthers have some intriguing prospects worth watching, but most notable is forward Jonathan Huberdeau, who played for Canada at the World Juniors and will get a long look in camp. Coach Kevin Dineen said the Panthers have cautious but high expectations for Huberdeau to be an impact player, which would only help a team that made positive strides and finally broke a long Stanley Cup Playoff drought last season.

The Carolina Hurricanes have two potential No. 1 centers: Eric and Jordan Staal. It's up to coach Kirk Muller to figure out if the brothers should be on the same line or separate lines, but he won't have any preseason games to experiment.

The Hurricanes also have to find someone to replace forward Tuomo Ruutu, who underwent hip surgery last month and could be out until April.

All eyes of the Tampa Bay Lightning will be on forward Steven Stamkos, because everyone is wondering what the 60-goal scorer can do next? However, 24-year-old goalie Anders Lindback is the one who could make the difference in getting back to the playoffs.

Lindback was Pekka Rinne's backup for the Nashville Predators last season, but now gets the chance to be a team's No. 1. Goaltending was the Lightning's biggest problem last season.

The Winnipeg Jets won't have defenseman Zach Bogosian, who could be out until next month with a wrist injury. Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien has to show he's in shape, and goalie Ondrej Pavelec is trying to put his drinking and driving arrest behind him while facing the pressure of living up to a five-year, $24.5 million contract.

Plenty of attention will be paid to forward Evander Kane, who signed a six-year, $31.5 million contract before the lockout.


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