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Training Camp

Eastern Conference training camp storylines

NHL.com breaks down biggest questions for all 16 teams heading into preseason

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

It's that terrific time of the year again, when each of the 31 NHL teams is undefeated, filled with hope and fueled by the opportunity a new season presents.

With training camps officially opening this week, NHL.com will look at the biggest storyline to watch for each team going into camp.

Below are the 16 teams in the Eastern Conference, listed alphabetically by division. A breakdown for the 15 Western Conference teams will follow Thursday.

 

METROPOLITAN DIVISION

 

CAROLINA HURRICANES

First practice: Friday; PNC Arena, Raleigh, N.C.

First preseason game: Sept. 18 at Buffalo Sabres

Justin Williams is the new addition to the forward group, and he's expected to play on one of the top two lines. A key part of camp for coach Bill Peters will be figuring out the best center to play with him. The leading candidates are Victor Rask and Jordan Staal. Williams may play two preseason games with each player to give Peters a better handle on the fit for Williams.

Video: Looking at the 2017-18 Carolina Hurricanes

 

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS

First practice: Friday; Nationwide Arena, Columbus

First preseason game: Sept. 19 vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Forward Artemi Panarin was the big addition in the offseason, giving the Blue Jackets a much-needed dynamic playmaker and goal-scorer. They traded forward Brandon Saad to the Chicago Blackhawks to get Panarin. Coach John Tortorella must figure out who will play with Panarin, who found instant chemistry as a rookie in Chicago two seasons ago with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, his linemates for most of his time there. Center Alexander Wennberg likely will get first crack in Columbus.

 

NEW JERSEY DEVILS

First practice: Friday; Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.

First preseason game: Sept. 18 vs. Washington Capitals

All eyes will be on center Nico Hischier, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. The importance of Hischier being an impactful player immediately intensified Aug. 17, when center Travis Zajac had surgery to repair a torn left pectoral muscle. Zajac will miss at least the first two months of the season and possibly more.

 

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

First practice: Friday; Northwell Health Ice Center, East Meadow, N.Y.

First preseason game: Sept. 17 vs. Philadelphia Flyers (Nassau Coliseum)

Defenseman Ryan Pulock figures to get his chance to make the Islanders' top-six defense group and to play on the first power play. Pulock had 46 points (15 goals, 31 assists), including five power-play goals, in 55 games for Bridgeport of the American Hockey League last season. The Islanders need him to be a regular on defense after trading Travis Hamonic to the Calgary Flames.

Video: The guys chat about the New York Islanders

 

NEW YORK RANGERS

First practice: Friday; Madison Square Garden Training Center, Greenburgh, N.Y.

First preseason game: Sept. 18 vs. Islanders

The Rangers are prepared to go into the season with Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes as their top two centers, pushing each player up a spot on the depth chart from where they were last season. It's unclear how it shakes out behind them. Rookie Lias Andersson, the No. 7 pick in the 2017 draft, could emerge as a viable third center option or he could play this season in Sweden. New York also has David Desharnais and rookie Cristoval Nieves. J.T. Miller is a last-resort option because coach Alain Vigneault prefers that he play on the wing.

 

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

First practice: Friday; Flyers Skate Zone, Voorhees, N.J.

First preseason game: Sept. 17 at Islanders (Nassau Coliseum)

Rookie center Nolan Patrick, the No. 2 pick in the 2017 draft, has a chance to be Philadelphia's No. 2 center behind Claude Giroux. Patrick insists he's fully recovered from abdominal surgery he had June 13. Injuries plagued him last season, when he was limited to 33 games for Brandon of the Western Hockey League.

 

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

First practice: Friday; UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, Cranberry, Pa.

First preseason game: Sept. 19 vs. Sabres (Pegula Ice Arena, Penn State University)

It's unclear how the Penguins will fill out their center depth behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. It likely will be a daily story until two players emerge to replace third-line center Nick Bonino (signed with Nashville Predators) and fourth-line center Matt Cullen (signed with Minnesota Wild), who each capably handled his role for Pittsburgh the past two seasons.

Video: 31 in 31: Pittsburgh Penguins 2017-18 season preview

 

WASHINGTON CAPITALS

First practice: Friday; Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Arlington, Va.

First preseason game: Sept. 18 at Devils

The Capitals have three openings on defense following the departures of Karl Alzner (Montreal Canadiens), Kevin Shattenkirk (Rangers) and Nate Schmidt (Vegas Golden Knights). Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos, who was third among AHL defensemen with 58 points (13 goals, 45 assists) in 66 games last season, appear to be front-runners for two of the spots. Washington also has veterans Taylor Chorney and Aaron Ness, and Jyrki Jokipakka will be in camp on a professional tryout contract.

 

ATLANTIC DIVISION

 

BOSTON BRUINS

First practice: Friday; Warrior Ice Arena, Boston

First preseason game: Sept. 18 vs. Montreal Canadiens (Centre Videotron, Quebec City)

Restricted free agent forward David Pastrnak, who had 70 points (34 goals, 36 assists) last season, is unsigned. All storylines in Bruins camp will be secondary to the Pastrnak angle until it gets resolved. Potentially linked to Pastrnak is the question of who will play on the wing with center David Krejci.

 

BUFFALO SABRES

First practice: Friday; HarborCenter, Buffalo

First preseason game: Sept. 18 vs. Hurricanes

New coach Phil Housley will be looking to put his imprint on the Sabres. He spent the past four seasons as a Nashville Predators assistant coach, helping develop their vaunted top-four defense group of Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm and P.K. Subban. He'll be looking to do something similar in Buffalo.

Video: Previewing the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres

 

DETROIT RED WINGS

First practice: Friday; Centre Ice Arena, Traverse City, Mich.

First preseason game: Sept. 19 at Bruins

Will restricted free agent forward Andreas Athanasiou re-sign or leave Detroit to play overseas? Athanasiou reportedly has had a contract offer from Ak Bars in the Kontinental Hockey League for two weeks. The Red Wings need him because he can be a dynamic scorer on a team that is expected to have scoring problems. He had 18 goals in 64 games last season, his second in the League. However, Detroit is in a salary cap crunch and doesn't appear willing to budge from its offer of a two-year contract worth $1.9 million annually, according to the Detroit Free Press.

 

FLORIDA PANTHERS

First practice: Friday; Florida Panthers IceDen, Coral Springs, Fla.

First preseason game: Sept. 19 at Predators (doubleheader)

Coach Bob Boughner will be running his first NHL training camp after spending the past two seasons as an assistant with the San Jose Sharks. Boughner was a successful coach with Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League, winning the Memorial Cup and OHL coach of the year award twice each. He needs to put together the pieces of a team that was decimated by injury last season.

 

MONTREAL CANADIENS

First practice: Friday; Bell Sports Complex, Brossard, Quebec

First preseason game: Sept. 18 vs. Bruins (Centre Videotron, Quebec City)

Jonathan Drouin's progress as the Canadiens' No. 1 center, a position he has never played regularly in the NHL, will be closely monitored. However, perhaps the more important storyline will be the battle to be Shea Weber's defense partner. Weber played primarily with Andrei Markov last season, and they were a dynamic pair. Markov left to go play in the KHL, and Weber needs a new partner. In addition, general manager Marc Bergevin has approximately $8.4 million in salary cap space, according to CapFriendly.com. Will he use some of it before the season starts?

Video: The crew chats about the Canadiens' changes at center

 

OTTAWA SENATORS

First practice: Friday; Bell Sensplex, Kanata, Ontario

First preseason game: Sept. 18 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

The Senators may start the season without each player from last season's top defense pair. Captain Erik Karlsson, the runner-up for the Norris Trophy last season, is recovering from surgery to repair tendons in his left foot. He plans to play in October and resume skating in 2-3 weeks. Marc Methot is playing for the Dallas Stars. That puts the spotlight on rookie Thomas Chabot, who will enter camp with an opportunity to get significant ice time right away.

 

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

First practice: Friday; Ice Sports Forum, Brandon, Fla.

First preseason game: Sept. 19 vs. Hurricanes

Forward Steven Stamkos is back after missing the final 65 games of last season because of a knee injury. The captain's health will always be a big storyline in Tampa Bay. However, defense is the area to watch for the Lightning, who added veteran Dan Girardi and rookie Mikhail Sergachev in the offseason. Girardi is expected to be a third-pair defenseman tasked with blocking shots and killing penalties. Sergachev has the chance to be special, but at 19 years old and with veterans on the roster, he will have to earn his spot.

 

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

First practice: Friday; Gale Centre Arena, Niagara Falls, Ontario

First preseason game: Sept. 18 at Senators

Veteran forward Patrick Marleau could play on a line with Auston Matthews, the 2017 Calder Trophy winner, and William Nylander. That likely means Nazem Kadri or Tyler Bozak would center a line with James van Riemsdyk and Mitchell Marner, and the other would center a line with Connor Brown and Zach Hyman. Where Marleau fits will determine how the rest of the lineup shakes out. Kasperi Kapanen, Josh Leivo and Nikita Soshnikov might impact coach Mike Babcock's decision-making.

Video: Can the Maple Leafs be a Stanley Cup contender?

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