Atlantic Division Preview
> The Atlantic Division has gotten tougher and tougher every season since the lockout. With Philadelphia and Pittsburgh making significant improvements on dismal showings in the first few seasons after the lockout, the Atlantic is looking more and more crowded every day. With the Rangers and Devils usually playing consistently successful hockey, the Islanders may be left out of the mix, despite having a very passable squad this season.
The New Jersey Devils may be the team with the most to lose this upcoming season. With Martin Brodeur counting the years left in his well-worn pads, the Devils can’t be too happy about their prospects once he’s gone. The defense that once put fear into offenses around the league is now populated with a bunch of no names and unproven young players. Brian Gionta and Zach Parise are both very capable goal scorers, but they will need to be phenomenal alongside Patrick Elias if the Devils want to make the playoffs this season.
The New York Islanders are a young team which has all the right pieces to develop into a competitive part of the Atlantic Division. With DiPietro locked up for the duration of his career, the Islanders are set to build their lineup in front of him. After Kyle Okposo’s impressive showing at the end of last season, New York has to be confident in his future with the organization. With veteran leaders like Doug Weight helping to stabilize the locker room, New York should maintain respectability in the division.
The New York Rangers lost Jaromir Jagr and replaced him with another aging star in Markus Naslund. If Naslund can pull his former scoring title talent out of his closet, New York shouldn’t feel any ill effects from losing Jagr. With the additions of veteran defensemen Wade Redden and Dmitri Kalinin should help the development of a strong young blueline corps in front of goalie Henrik Lundqvist. It remains to be seen how deeply the loss of troublemaker Sean Avery will be felt.
The Philadelphia Flyers have a lot to look forward to after a surprising Eastern Conference finalist finish last season. With a very potent offense bolstered by the return of superstar Simon Gagne, the Flyers should have no problem putting the puck in the net. If Martin Biron can provide enough of a cushion for a young defensive corps to develop effectively, the Flyers will be a force to reckon with in the East.
Finally, the Pittsburgh Penguins, last year’s Eastern Conference champ and Stanley Cup finalist. While the retaining of Marian Hossa’s services would have made the Penguins a nearly unbeatable offensive juggernaut in the East, Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko are both very talented players who had toiled their last few seasons in relative mediocrity with limited supporting casts. With Fleury between the pipes and a defense that should do well enough to let the offense steal all the spotlight, the Penguins will be back atop the Eastern Conference at the end of the season. Barring any serious injuries to Malkin or Sidney Crosby, the Penguins could have a shot at grabbing the Stanley Cup that evaded them last season.
Atlantic Division Standings Prediction: Pittsburgh Philadelphia New York Rangers New Jersey New York Islanders
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