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NHL Eastern Conference team-by-team preview

1. Washington Capitals

2009-10 record: 54-15-13, 121 points.

Power play: 25.2% (first). Penalty killing: 78.8% (25th).

Team goals-against average: 2.72 (16th).

Leading scorer: Alexander Ovechkin 50-59 — 109.

Outlook: They squandered a 3-1 series lead and lost to the eighth-seeded Canadiens in the playoff's first round, which should spark them. Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom (33 goals, 68 assists) were the only teammates to exceed 100 points last season, and Mike Green led NHL defensemen in scoring with 76 points.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins

2009-10 record: 47-28-7, 101 points.

Power play: 17.2% (19th). Penalty killing: 84.1% (ninth).

Team goals-against average: 2.82 (20th).

Leading scorer: Sidney Crosby 51-58 — 109.

Outlook: Their defense of their Stanley Cup title ended in a second-round loss to the Canadiens, leading to changes. They lost power-play quarterback Sergei Gonchar to free agency, but recouped by signing steady Paul Mara and Zbynek Michalek. They also signed forward Mike Comrie to give them flexibility up front.

3. Boston Bruins

2009-10 record: 39-30-13, 91 points.

Power play: 16.6% (23rd). Penalty killing: 86.4% (third).

Team goals-against average: 2.28 (second).

Leading scorer: Patrick Bergeron 19-33 — 52.

Outlook: Post- concussion problems will keep the gifted Marc Savard out of the lineup indefinitely, but the Bruins have beefed up their offense. No. 2 overall draft pick Tyler Seguin will get a lot of ice time, and they're counting on a rebirth for Nathan Horton. Tim Thomas (2.56 GAA) and Tuukka Rask (1.97) were stellar last season.

4. Philadelphia Flyers

2009-10 record: 41-35-6, 88 points.

Power play: 21.4% (third). Penalty killing: 83.0% (11th).

Team goals-against average: 2.68 (15th).

Leading scorer: Mike Richards 31-31 — 62.

Outlook: After making the playoffs on the last day of the season, the Flyers upset the Devils, erased an 0-3 deficit against the Bruins, beat the Canadiens easily and took the more talented Blackhawks to six games in the Cup finals. Chris Pronger had knee surgery over the summer and might not be ready for the opener.

5. New Jersey Devils

2009-10 record: 48-27-7, 103 points.

Power play: 18.7% (11th). Penalty killing: 82.8% (13th).

Team goals-against average: 2.24 (first).

Leading scorer: Ilya Kovalchuk 41-44 — 85.

Outlook: They won the battle for Kovalchuk, but lost a first-round draft pick and were fined $3 million for salary-cap circumvention in their first offer to him, worth $102 million over 17 years. The final deal was for $100 million over 15 years, a salary-cap hit of $6.667 million per season. Ouch. He has scored 50-plus goals twice.

6. Tampa Bay Lightning

2009-10 record: 34-16-12, 80 points.

Power play: 19.3% (eighth). Penalty killing: 80.1% (22nd).

Team goals-against average: 3.03 (27th).

Leading scorer: Steven Stamkos 51-44 — 95.

Outlook: Two guys named Steve — third-year center Stamkos and first-year general manager Yzerman — and a guy named Guy (Boucher, the coach) have shown signs they're going to turn the Lightning around. Stamkos blossomed last season, and Yzerman provided offensive help by acquiring winger Simon Gagne from the Flyers.

7. Ottawa Senators

2009-10 record: 44-32-6, 94 points.

Power play: 16.9% (21st). Penalty killing: 84.3% (seventh).

Team goals-against average: 2.80 (19th).

Leading scorer: Daniel Alfredsson 20-51 — 71.

Outlook: Signing free-agent defenseman Sergei Gonchar should improve their anemic power play. Center Jason Spezza was rumored to be on the trade block, but he's still there and should be able to improve on last season's 57 points in 60 games. Rookie center Zack Smith earned a job in camp, providing depth.

8. Atlanta Thrashers

2009-10 record: 35-34-13, 83 points.

Power play: 16.1% (25th). Penalty killing: 82.2% (16th).

Team goals-against average: 3.01 (25th).

Leading scorer: Nik Antropov 24-43 — 67.

Outlook: They took advantage of the Blackhawks' fire sale to pick up Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Andrew Ladd and Brent Sopel. But coach Craig Ramsay seems intent on deploying big-bodied Byfuglien on defense instead of playing to his strength as a power forward and planting him around the net. Defenseman Zach Bogosian is solid.

9. Buffalo Sabres

2009-10 record: 45-27-10, 100 points.

Power play: 17.6% (17th). Penalty killing: 86.6% (second).

Team goals-against average: 2.42 (fourth).

Leading scorer: Derek Roy 26-43 — 69.

Outlook: They always build good, fast teams on a tight budget but can't get far in the playoffs and lose players to free agency. This season's script should be the same. Towering defenseman Tyler Myers, rookie of the year last season, has the potential to be a franchise player. Goalie Ryan Miller won the Vezina as the NHL's top goalie with a 2.22 GAA.

10. New York Rangers

2009-10 record: 38-33-11, 87 points.

Power play: 18.3% (13th). Penalty killing: 84.3% (eighth).

Team goals-against average: 2.58 (10th).

Leading scorer: Marian Gaborik 42-44 — 86.

Outlook: Gaborik had more than twice as many goals as the next-best goal scorers on the team (Vinny Prospal and Brandon Dubinsky, each with 20), and that isn't likely to change unless winger Alexander Frolov has a big comeback. Henrik Lundqvist (2.36 GAA) was the only reason they had a chance to make the playoffs on the final day.

11. Montreal Canadiens

2009-10 record: 39-33-10, 88 points.

Power play: 21.8% (second). Penalty killing: 83.0% (12th).

Team goals-against average: 2.61 (11th).

Leading scorer: Tomas Plekanec 25-45 — 70.

Outlook: The Habs rode Jaroslav Halak's spectacular goaltending to playoff success, but instead of building on that GM Pierre Gauthier unclogged the goalie logjam by trading Halak to the Blues and keeping Carey Price. That could back-

fire. They're still a small team, though speedy and backed with an adequate defense.

12. Carolina Hurricanes

2009-10 record: 35-37-10, 80 points.

Power play: 16.9% (22nd). Penalty killing: 80.6% (19th).

Team goals-against average: 3.02 (26th).

Leading scorer: Eric Staal 29-41 — 70.

Outlook: They've gone young, which means they're far from contending. Staal is a workhorse, and left wing Jussi Jokinen came out of nowhere to score 30 goals and 65 points, a level he must sustain. Brandon Sutter (21 goals) is also developing nicely. Goalie Cam Ward must rebound for this team to be competitive.

13. New York Islanders

2009-10 record: 34-37-11, 79 points.

Power play: 16.0% (27th). Penalty killing: 76.3% (29th).

Team goals-against average: 3.09 (28th).

Leading scorer: John Tavares 24-30 — 54.

Outlook: They had a rough training camp, losing steady defenseman Mark Streit for up to six months because of a shoulder injury and right wing Kyle Okposo (19 goals, 52 points) for up to three months after he injured his shoulder in a scrimmage. Swiss phenom Nino Niederriter, selected fifth in the draft, is fun to watch.

14. Toronto Maple Leafs

2009-10 record: 30-38-14, 74 points.

Power play: 14.0% (30th). Penalty killing: 74.6% (30th).

Team goals-against average: 3.15 (29th).

Leading scorer: Phil Kessel 30-25 — 55.

Outlook: GM Brian Burke insists he can't rebuild with youth because his hockey-

crazed market won't permit it. Instead of drafting and developing kids, he has collected a mess of veterans with motley pedigrees. Dion Phaneuf, acquired in a seven-player deal with the Flames, must be a leader.

15. Florida Panthers

2009-10 record: 32-37-13, 77 points.

Power play: 14.2% (29th). Penalty killing:79.4% (23rd).

Team goals-against average: 2.80 (18th).

Leading scorer: Stephen Weiss 28-32 — 60.

Outlook: It's difficult to miss the NHL playoffs nine times in a row, but the Panthers have done it. David Booth, recovered from two concussions, is likely to be their only scoring threat. Defenseman Erik Gudbranson,the third pick in the entry draft, is expected to start the season with them and could stick.

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