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Eastern Conference team-by-team preview capsules @NHLdotcom

Team-by-team capsules for the Eastern Conference, listed in 2009-10 season order of finish:

LAST SEASON: 48-27-2-5, 103 points. Lost to Philadelphia 4-1 in first round.

COACH: John MacLean, 1st season with Devils; 1st overall in NHL.

ADDED: C Jason Arnott, D Henrik Tallinder, D Anton Volchenkov, G Johan Hedberg.

LOST: C Rob Niedermayer, D Paul Martin, RW Matt Halischuk, G Yann Danis, LW Andrew Peters, LW Jay Pandolfo, D Martin Skoula, D Cory Murphy, LW Dean McAmmond, D Mike Mottau.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Ilya Kovalchuk. After his 17-year, $102 million contract with the Devils was rejected by the NHL for violating the salary cap, the sides agreed to a reworked 15-year, $100 million deal. He will need to power the offense and prove he is worthy of such a lucrative contract.

ICING: Kovalchuk already cost the Devils a $3 million fine and the loss of a third-round draft pick this year and a first-rounder in one of the next four seasons. New Jersey will also have to shed salary before opening day and then have to figure out how to avoid a fourth-straight ouster in the first round of the playoffs.


LAST SEASON: 47-28-5-2, 101 points. Lost to Montreal 4-3 in conference semifinals.

COACH: Dan Bylsma, 3rd season with Penguins, 65-31-11; 3rd overall in NHL.

ADDED: D Paul Martin, D Zbynek Michalek, C Ryan Craig, RW Arron Asham, C Mike Comrie.

LOST: D Sergei Gonchar, D Mark Eaton, D Jordan Leopold, LW Alexei Ponikarovsky, LW Ruslan Fedotenko, RW Bill Guerin, D Jay McKee.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Paul Martin. Will be expected to pick up the offensive slack on the blue line created by the departure of power-play specialist and fellow defenseman Sergei Gonchar.

ICING: Penguins could be poised to make another run to the Stanley Cup finals after a one-year absence following two straight appearances. Will need to make new arena as tough for opponents to play in as old Mellon Arena proved to be.


LAST SEASON: 41-35-3-3, 88 points. Lost to Chicago 4-2 in Stanley Cup finals.

COACH: Peter Laviolette, 2nd season with Flyers, 28-24-5; 9th overall, 272-208-64 in NHL.

ADDED: D Andrej Meszaros, D Sean O'Donnell, LW Jody Shelley, RW Nikolay Zherdev, D Matt Walker.

LOST: LW Simon Gagne, D Ryan Parent, RW Arron Asham, D Danny Syvret, C Mika Pyorala, LW Riley Cote, G Ray Emery, D Lukas Krajicek.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Danny Briere. Flyers will count on the speedy forward to be the offensive force all season that he was in the playoffs when he posted 30 points.

ICING: Already dealing with injury to No. 1 goalie Michael Leighton, the star of last season's improbable run to the Cup finals. Will need Zherdev to fill in on offense and replace the loss of longtime forward Simon Gagne, who was traded away to Tampa Bay. Can't figure on return trip to finals if they again fail to secure playoff spot until final day of the season.


LAST SEASON: 38-33-7-4, 87 points. Out of playoffs.

COACH: John Tortorella, 4th season with Rangers, 50-43-14; 11th overall, 289-265-88 in NHL.

ADDED: LW Ruslan Fedotenko, G Martin Biron, LW Derek Boogaard, D Steve Eminger, LW Alexander Frolov, C Todd White, LW Tim Kennedy.

LOST: C Olli Jokinen, LW Aaron Voros, G Alex Auld, LW Jody Shelley, LW P.A. Parenteau, LW Donald Brashear, D Bobby Sanguinetti, D Anders Eriksson, G Steve Valiquette, RW Enver Lisin.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Alexander Frolov. The latest free-agent forward to join the Rangers. He could see time on a line with top scorer Marian Gaborik. If so, he will be expected to take some of the scoring load off of Gaborik, who had a team-best 42 goals and 86 points in his first season with New York.

ICING: Will need to weather the early-season storm when key forwards Chris Drury and Vinny Prospal recover from injuries. Rangers will be expected to make return trip to the postseason after missing the playoffs last season, but will be hard-pressed again to crack the top eight.


LAST SEASON: 34-37-5-6, 79 points. Out of playoffs.

COACH: Scott Gordon, 3rd season with Islanders, 60-84-20; 3rd overall in NHL.

ADDED: D Mark Eaton, D Milan Jurcina, LW P.A. Parenteau, C Zenon Konopka, D James Wisniewski.

LOST: RW Tim Jackman, LW Jeff Tambellini, G Martin Biron, D Freddy Meyer, LW Sean Bergenheim, D Brendan Witt, RW Richard Park.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Rick DiPietro. The oft-injured goalie with the 15-year contract is back and seemingly healthy. Will be in competition for playing time with last season's No. 1 goalie Dwayne Roloson, who likely won't appreciate being relegated to bench duty if DiPietro returns to his old form.

ICING: Already thin on depth, the Islanders start the season without top defenseman Mark Streit and talented young forward Kyle Okposo. Both are expected to be sidelined for several months, meaning longshot hopes of a playoff berth are probably unrealistic.


LAST SEASON: 45-27-4-6, 100 points. Lost to Boston 4-2 in first round.

COACH: Lindy Ruff, 13th season with Sabres, 483-361-140; 13th overall in NHL.

ADDED: D Jordan Leopold, C Rob Niedermayer, RW Tim Conboy, D Shaone Morrisonn.

LOST: D Toni Lydman, D Henrik Tallinder, LW Raffi Torres, LW Tim Kennedy, C Adam Mair.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Ryan Miller. He showed the world during the NHL season and in the net for the U.S. at the Olympics that he is in the discussion for best goalie in the sport. Will need to produce another year like his Vezina Trophy-winning campaign of last season if the Sabres are going to make much noise in the playoffs.

ICING: Miller's job will likely be more difficult this season without defensemen Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder helping out in front. That could prevent a repeat for the Sabres atop the Northeast Division.


LAST SEASON: 44-32-1-5, 94 points. Lost to Pittsburgh 4-2 in first round.

COACH: Cory Clouston, 3rd season with Senators, 63-43-10; 3rd overall in NHL.

ADDED: D David Rundblad, D Sergei Gonchar, D David Hale.

LOST: RW Jonathan Cheechoo, C Matt Cullen, D Anton Volchenkov, D Andy Sutton, RW Shean Donovan.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jason Spezza. Limited to only 60 games and 23 goals last season, Spezza will need to step up and carry the offense more as longtime star Daniel Alfredsson slows down.

ICING: Gonchar will help the Senators' power play and should give an overall jolt to the offense. Improved special teams play could make a difference in a good way for the Senators in the playoffs, especially if they meet Pittsburgh again, but this time with Gonchar on their side.


LAST SEASON: 39-30-4-9, 91 points. Lost to Philadelphia 4-3 in conference semifinals.

COACH: Claude Julien, 4th season with Bruins, 133-78-44; 8th overall, 252-164-77 in NHL.

ADDED: RW Nathan Horton, C Gregory Campbell, C Tyler Seguin.

LOST: D Dennis Wideman, C Vladimir Sobotka, LW Steve Begin, RW Miroslav Satan.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Nathan Horton. The newcomer from Florida will be thrown right into the fray as he will be counted on to fill the gap on offense created by the absence of playmaking center Marc Savard, who is sidelined by post-concussion problems.

ICING: Will need to prove they really have shaken off the shock of blowing a 3-0 series lead to Philadelphia and a 3-0 edge in Game 7 at home. If they haven't, the hangover could prove costly throughout the season. The arrival of Horton and No. 2 overall pick Tyler Sequin could shift the focus to this season.


LAST SEASON: 39-33-5-5, 88 points. Lost to Philadelphia 4-1 in conference finals.

COACH: Jacques Martin, 2nd season with Canadiens, 39-33-10; 16th overall, 556-439-185 in NHL.

ADDED: C Lars Eller, RW Ian Schultz, C Dustin Boyd, G Alex Auld, D Alexandre Picard, G Karri Ramo, C Jeff Halpern.

LOST: G Jaroslav Halak, LW Sergei Kostitsyn, C Dominic Moore, C Glen Metropolit, RW Georges Laraque, D Shawn Belle, LW Gregory Stewart, D Marc-Andre Bergeron, D Paul Mara.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Carey Price. The 22-year-old goalie now owns the No. 1 job following the trade of Jaroslav Halak to St. Louis. Price went 13-20-5 in 41 games before Halak took over late in the season and guided the Canadiens into the NHL's final four.

ICING: If Price doesn't live up to the high promise created when he was chosen No. 5 in the 2005 draft, not only won't the Canadiens make a return to trip to the conference finals, they might not even qualify for the playoffs.


LAST SEASON: 30-38-10-4, 74 points. Out of playoffs.

COACH: Ron Wilson, 3rd season with Maple Leafs, 64-73-27; 17th overall, 582-499-174 in NHL.

ADDED: RW Mike Brown, RW Kris Versteeg, LW Bill Sweatt, C Philippe Paradis, C Christopher DiDomenico, RW Colby Armstrong, D Brett Lebda, D Matt Lashoff, LW Clarke MacArthur.

LOST: LW Viktor Stalberg, C Jamie Lundmark, C Rickard Wallin, D Garnet Exelby, C Wayne Primeau.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Dion Phaneuf. Now in his first full season with Toronto, the rugged defenseman has the added pressure of being captain of the Maple Leafs, who have failed to reach the playoffs in five straight seasons.

ICING: The Maple Leafs are on their longest streak of missing the playoffs in team history. There aren't many signs that the skid will end soon. Every Original Six NHL team has won the Stanley Cup since the Maple Leafs last claimed it in 1967.


LAST SEASON: 54-15-7-6, 121 points. Lost to Montreal 4-3 in first round.

COACH: Bruce Boudreau, 4th season with Capitals, 141-56-28; 4th overall in NHL.

ADDED: RW Brian Willsie, LW D.J. King.

LOST: D Milan Jurcina, D Joe Corvo, LW Alexandre Giroux, D Shaone Morrisonn, LW Chris Bourque, C Kyle Wilson, C Eric Belanger, LW Quintin Laing, C Brendan Morrison, G Jose Theodore, RW Scott Walker.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Nicklas Backstrom. The 22-year-old star center, who along with Alex Ovechkin are the NHL's top scoring teammate duo, will look to continue the growth that earned him a 10-year, $67 million deal during the offseason.

ICING: The Capitals have shown they can score in bunches and dominate in the regular season. Now it's time for Washington to strengthen its defensive game in the playoffs and make the deep run that is often predicted.


LAST SEASON: 35-34-7-6, 83 points. Out of playoffs.

COACH: Craig Ramsay, 1st season with Thrashers; 3rd overall, 16-27-6 in NHL.

ADDED: RW/D Dustin Byfuglien, LW Ben Eager, RW Akim Aliu, D Brent Sopel, G Chris Mason, LW Andrew Ladd, LW Fredrik Modin, LW Nigel Dawes.

LOST: D Pavel Kubina, RW Colby Armstrong, G Johan Hedberg, C Todd White, D Chris Chelios, RW Maxim Afinogenov, LW Clarke MacArthur, RW Evgeny Artyukhin, LW Vyacheslav Kozlov, D Christoph Schubert, C Marty Reasoner.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Dustin Byfuglien. Coming off a breakout performance in which he scored five game-winning playoff goals for Stanley Cup champion Chicago, Byfuglien will likely shift from forward to defenseman and try to bring a winning culture to the struggling Thrashers.

ICING: The veteran coach Ramsay is the latest who will try to change Atlanta's fortunes and find a way to make the Thrashers winners. With Ilya Kovalchuk in New Jersey and no longer the face of the Thrashers franchise, it will be up to others to step up.


LAST SEASON: 35-37-5-5, 80 points. Out of playoffs.

COACH: Paul Maurice, 12th season with Hurricanes/Whalers franchise, 336-347-130 (including 1995-2004); 14th overall, 412-413-152 in NHL.

ADDED: RW Jared Staal, D Bobby Sanguinetti, D Anton Babchuk, D Joe Corvo, C Patrick O'Sullivan.

LOST: C Rod Brind'Amour, LW Ray Whitney, RW Tim Conboy, D Alexandre Picard, D Brian Pothier, G Manny Legace.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Eric Staal. Now in his first full season as captain, following the retirement of Rod Brind'Amour, Staal is the unquestioned leader on and off the ice. He led the club in scoring last season, but finished with only 70 points.

ICING: The Hurricanes need to avoid the brutal start of last season and play as they did in the second half if they hope to contend for a playoff spot.


LAST SEASON: 34-36-5-7, 80 points. Out of playoffs.

COACH: Guy Boucher, 1st season with Lightning; 1st overall in NHL.

ADDED: G Dan Ellis, D Pavel Kubina, D Brett Clark, LW Simon Gagne, C Marc-Antoine Pouliot, LW Chris Durno, D Mathieu Roy, C Dominic Moore, LW Sean Bergenheim, G Cedrick Desjardins, D Randy Jones.

LOST: LW Todd Fedoruk, D Andrej Meszaros, D Matt Walker, D Kurtis Foster, G Antero Niittymaki, LW Alex Tanguay, C Zenon Konopka, D David Hale, D Matt Lashoff, C Ryan Craig, RW Brandon Bochenski, RW Mark Parrish, LW Stephane Veilleux.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Steven Stamkos. Out to prove last season's 51-goal outburst that tied Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead is the norm and not a fluke.

ICING: With Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis pacing the offense and hulking young defenseman Victor Hedman anchoring the defense, the Lightning could be more dangerous than expected.


LAST SEASON: 32-37-3-10, 77 points. Out of playoffs.

COACH: Peter DeBoer, 3rd season with Panthers, 73-67-24; 3rd overall in NHL.

ADDED: D Dennis Wideman, RW Steve Bernier, RW Michael Grabner, LW Chris Higgins, D Nathan Paetsch, C Marty Reasoner, D Mike Weaver, C Mike Santorelli, LW Andrew Peters.

LOST: RW Nathan Horton, C Gregory Campbell, D Keith Ballard, RW Victor Oreskovich, C Jeff Taffe, LW Steve MacIntyre, C Kamil Kreps, LW Nick Tarnasky, D Ville Koistinen.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Stephen Weiss. Led the Panthers last season with 28 goals and 60 points, but won't have No. 2 scorer Nathan Horton there to help carry the load.

ICING: It looks as if it could be another long year for the struggling Panthers, but with Blackhawks architect Dale Tallon now in charge in Florida as general manager, the turnaround probably won't take too much longer.

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