Originally posted on The Pensblog  |  Last updated 10/2/13
In order of where we expect them to finish... 1. Penguins 2.  Washington Capitals The Capitals are no longer in the pushover Southeast division.  They will actually have to play against some tough teams in arguably the league's toughest division.  Alex Ovechkin should be highly motivated given that this is an Olympic year, he also had a great stretch run to the playoffs last season. Out is Mike Ribeiro, in is Mikhail Grabovski.  Martin Erat will also play his first full year for the Capitals.  The defense and goaltending looks familiar to last year’s squad so expect another playoff appearance. Player to watch Mike Green.  If Green Life 52 stays healthy, he is a big help to the Capitals offense.  He is still questionable defensively and may still ride a vespa. Player not to watch John Erskine.  He is ordinary. Games vs. the Penguins(4) Nov. 20 @ WSH, 8 pm Jan. 15 @ PIT, 8 pm Mar. 10 @ WSH, 7 pm Mar. 11 @ PIT, 7:30 pm 3.  Columbus Blue Jackets Another new addition to the Eastern Conference, the Blue Jackets are battle tested after playing against the Red Wings and Blackhawks for years.  Jarmo Kekalainen was brought in last year to be the GM and he’s already made some shrewd moves.  He signed Nathan Horton to a huge contract to give the Jackets some more offense and grit.  Marian Gaborik came over in a deadline deal last year and played pretty well.  The Blue Jackets just missed the playoffs last season in the Western Conference and exceeded expectations.  Sergei Bobrovsky is the key.  This team will go as he does, and if he comes close to repeating his success last season, the Blue Jackets will make the playoffs. Player to watch Ryan Murray.  He was the 2nd overall pick a few years ago but missed last season because of a shoulder injury. Player not to watch Brandon Dubinsky.  He will lose his mind in every game this season. Games vs. the Penguins(5) Nov. 1 @ PIT, 7 pm Nov. 2 @ CBJ, 7 pm Dec. 9 @ PIT, 7:30 pm Dec. 29 @ CBJ, 6 pm Mar. 28 @ CBJ, 7 pm 4.  New York Rangers Alain Vigneault is the new head coach of the Rangers.  That is pretty much the biggest change the Rangers made in the offseason.  How this current group plays under Vigneault will be interesting given that they seem built around defense and timely scoring.  The Rangers will play a looser style under Vigneault but will they be a better team? Player to watch Derek Stepan.  He just signed a new deal but missed most of training camp. Player not to watch Brad Richards.  Seems like his best days are behind him and this is his last chance to prove to the Rangers he was worth a huge contract. Games vs. the Penguins(4) Nov. 6 @ NYR, 7:30 pm Dec. 18 @ NYR, 8 pm Jan. 3 @ PIT, 7 pm Feb. 7 @ PIT, 7 pm 5.  New York Islanders The Isles played a tremendous series against the Penguins last spring.  They probably deserved to win but they didn’t get the goaltending they needed.  The problem with the Islanders already this year is that they really didn’t improve that area.  Evgeni Nabokov is back since there was a lack of available options in free agency.  They also lost Mark Streit to the Flyers, which is a pretty big loss considering he was the captain.  They brought in Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Cal Clutterbuck(he’ll miss time after being cut by a skate in the preseason).  The defense is a little questionable but there are some good young players in Hamonic and Griffin Reinhart.  This team should compete for a playoff spot but they haven’t made enough upgrades to get further than they did last year. Player to watch Kyle Okposo.  He was a force against the Penguins in the playoffs and will need to continue to be that kind of player during the regular season. Player not to watch Rick DiPietro.  The Islanders finally freed themselves of the horrible contract they gave DiPietro.  He’ll now go into seclusion for the rest of his life, resting on his riches and working on his beard. Games vs. the Penguins(4) Oct. 25 @ PIT, 7 pm Nov. 22 @ PIT, 7 pm Dec. 3 @ NYI, 7 pm Jan. 23 @ NYI, 7:30 pm 6.  Carolina Hurricanes   Everyone expected the Hurricanes to better last season, but they fell apart after losing Cam Ward to an injury.  They added Ron Hainsey, Mike Komisarek, and Andrej Sekera to the defense in the offseason.  Joni Pitkanen will be lost for the season after suffering a horrific injury.  Up front, they do have a pretty good group led by the Staal brothers.  Jeff Skinner had some concussion issues so that will be something to watch for this season. First round pick Elias Lindholm will start in the NHL.  This will be a big year for coach Kirk Muller, who has yet to get the Hurricanes to the playoffs.  If they stay healthy, they could compete for a wild card playoff spot. Player to watch Alexander Semin.  This is the first year of his big contract and he went quiet after having a big start to last season. Player not to watch Mike Komisarek.  He might not be as bad of a player as he looked in Toronto.  But he’s not made for the new NHL. Games vs. the Penguins(4) Oct. 8 @ PIT, 7 pm Oct. 28 @ CAR, 7 pm Dec. 27 @ CAR, 7 pm Apr. 1 @ PIT, 7 pm 7.  New Jersey Devils Ilya Kovalchuk is no longer with the Devils after leaving for the KHL.  Within two summers, the Devils have lost two franchise players with him and Parise.  They did acquire a new franchise player in Cory Schneider.  Everyone has always wondered who the heir apparent would be to Brodeur and it looks like they have found a capable replacement.  The Devils spent a lot of money trying to fill the void of Kovalchuk, signing(overpaying) Ryane Clowe, Michael Ryder, Damien Brunner and Double J.  Their defense is mostly the same, and they have a great tandem with Brodeur and Schneider.  They won’t be as bad as everyone thinks they will be. Lou Lamoriello loves being the underdog. Player to watch Adam Henrique.  With Kovalchoo and Parise gone, Henrique will need to step up and be the guy for New Jersey. Player not to watch Steve Bernier.  Remember that horrible boarding penalty he took in the Stanley Cup Finals? Games vs. the Penguins(4) Oct. 3 @ PIT, 7 pm - Opening Night Nov. 16 @ NJ, 7 pm Dec. 13 @ PIT, 7 pm Dec. 31 @ NJ, 1 pm 8.  Philadelphia Flyers The Flyers were awful last season, all their young players seemed to regress and they had a horrible defense.  They went out and got veterans Mark Streit and Vincent Lecavalier to provide some much needed leadership.  Gone is Ilya Bryzgalov after he was bought out along with Daniel Briere.  Ray Emery and Steve Mason are going to be the goaltenders in Philadelphia and that presents a lot of questions.  Peter Laviolette will be on the hot seat.  Yes, there wasn’t a lot of improvements so how will this team get different results?  They won’t, expect another down year for the Flyers. Player to watch Jakub Voracek.  This guy seems like a ***** to play against and was one of the few Flyers players who wasn’t a piece of **** last year. Player not to watch Zac Rinaldo.  The Flyers seem to have a farm full of these type of idiot players. Games vs. the Penguins(5) Oct. 17 @ PHI, 7 pm Nov. 13 @ PIT, 8 pm Mar. 15 @ PHI, 1 pm Mar. 16 @ PIT, 7:30 pm Apr. 12 @ PIT, 3 pm  
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