NHL preview: Five questions in the East

1. New coach, general manager in Pittsburgh — new direction?

Another early playoff exit cost coach Dan Bylsma and general manager Ray Shero their jobs, taken by Mike Johnston and Jim Rutherford, respectively. They must resolve defensive chaos, a lack of clutch goaltending and injuries. Sidney Crosby's preseason action was limited; Evgeni Malkin was expected to miss the entire exhibition schedule. Time for this talented group to prove itself.

2. Can the Blue Jackets build on a solid season?

They were on an upswing and pushed the Penguins to six games in the playoffs, but they've been unable to re-sign franchise center Ryan Johansen and will suffer if he's absent long. Projected first-line left wing Boone Jenner (broken hand) will miss the first few weeks. They're scrappy but lack depth.

3. How far can the Lightning go with a healthy Steven Stamkos?

The East finals, maybe, if the dynamic Stamkos and goalie Ben Bishop avoid injuries. Junior scoring phenom Jonathan Drouin joins an exceptional young group that includes rookie-of-the-year finalists Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat.

4. Can the Rangers duplicate their Stanley Cup Final run?

It could be tough. They'll start without first-line center Derek Stepan (broken leg), and that's after losing valued defenseman Anton Stralman to free agency. But they'll have a full season of prolific right wing Martin St. Louis, and goalie Henrik Lundqvist remains their backbone.

5. Will the Red Wings' 23-year playoff streak end?

An annual question but relevant because the magical Pavel Datsyuk (separated right shoulder) is likely to miss a month. Moving to the East last season helped them, but they need to help themselves and upgrade on defense. Playoffs are likely, but no lock.

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