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NHL Preview 2013: Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division
Henrik Lundqvist

1. New York Rangers
New York dominated the Eastern Conference through much of last season before falling in the playoffs. Shutdown goalie Henrik Lundqvist is back after a fantastic 2012 season. He'll be helped out thanks to more scoring help with the addition of former Blue Jacket Rick Nash. A healthy Marian Gaborik should propel the Rangers to the number one seed in the East.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins should be in Stanley Cup contention thanks to the return of a healthy Sidney Crosby. If not Crosby struggles the Pens will rely on Evengi Malkin and fabulous goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. The big question in Pittsburgh is who will replace Jordan Staal, one of the league's most efficient centers.
3. Philadelphia Flyers
Up front, Philadelphia is as strong as anyone. Claude Giroux was dominant through much of last year and should continue that in 2013. Danny Briere isn't a superstar but will be an effective center. And, the Flyers still have big right winger Scott Hartnell. But, defense will be a big issue for Philly this year. Chris Pronger is really starting to slow at 38, Matt Carle is now gone and Andrej Meszaros has struggled with injuries.
4. New Jersey Devils
The Devils surprised more than a few when they ended up in the Stanley Cup against LA. But, this is a different team. Star Zach Parise is now in Minnesota and Martin Broduer is continuing to age in goal. Ilya Kovalchuck, Travis Zajac and a number of others must step up in order for a shot at repeating last year's success.
5. New York Islanders
Once more the Islanders will be in the cellar of the Atlantic. They do have a couple of dangerous players including  John Tavares and Matt Moulson but not enough to contend in a division filled with stars. However, goal is solid with Rick DiPietro and Evengi Nabakov.

1. Washington Capitols
It was a disastrous 2011-2012 for the Caps but there is hope to turn things around in a big way. Alex Ovechkin is back but without his sidekick Alexander Semin. The Caps need a big turnaround in Mike Green who played terrible through much of last year. Ovie better score a lot of goals because the Capitols are weak in between the pipes.
2. Carolina Hurricanes
The 'Canes enjoyed a great off season trading for center Jordan Staal from Pittsburgh, and landing Alexander Semin who could dominate now being the premier scorer on a team. Some old pieces are also back such as center Eric Staal and goalie Cam Ward to lift Carolina into the playoffs.
3. Florida Panthers
Florida had a huge turnaround last year winning the Southeast. And, they could do it this year as well. The Panthers have a lot returning including center Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleischmann. They also added 36 year old Filip Kuba to keep the defense strong.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning aren't short of star power. They still have aging stars Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavlier who are losing a little bit of speed but not much. Those two have become backseats to the sensational Steven Stamkos who shreds defenses with his slapshot. As much as the Lightning can score the team is very weak in the back which could hurt them in the long run.
5. Winnipeg Jets
In their first year away from the Atlanta Thrashers the Jets narrowly missed the playoffs and hope this year they can make it over the hump. Evander Kane is the focal point on offense putting up 30 goals last season. Winnipeg signed journeyman Olli Jokinen to help Kane out on the offensive side. The defense is solid with Zach Bogosian and Dustin Byfuglien but there isn't enough star power for the Jets to climb out of the cellar.

1. Boston Bruins
Kyle Turris
Once more it looks like the Bruins will rule the Northeast thanks to stifling defense and an efficient offense. Boston has dangerous centers Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin and Milan Lucic to dominate at the left wing spot. The Bruins also feature a new goalie in Tuukka Rask who takes over for Tim Thomas, who will sit out the year. All this should mean a deep playoff run in the East.
2. Ottawa Senators
The Senators look very dangerous heading into 2013 thanks to Kyle Turris and some aging vets. Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza were once the cornerstones of an Eastern Conference power but now are background noise to others. Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson and Sergei Gonchar should keep opponents from getting anything easy.
3. Buffalo Sabres
Buffalo could also end up being quite a scary team. They have scoring punch in newcomer Steve Ott, Thomas Vanek and improving Cody Hodgson. The X-factor is Ryan Miller who had possibly his worst year in the NHL last season. If he returns to his old self then Buffalo should wind up in the playoffs.
4. Montreal Canadiens
Things don't look as bright for Montreal as Ottawa or Buffalo.The Canadiens added right winger Colby Armstrong and retained Brian Gionta and Tomas Plekanec. Overall, even with Carey Price in goal and an okay defense the Canadiens don't have enough scoring punch for them to really make noise out east.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs
This might be well too low for the Maple Leafs a team with a lot of intriguing players. Phil Kessell continues to be a their go to scorer and continues to be helped by Joffrey Lupul. The Maple Leafs are also excited about left winger James van Riemsdyk who is beastly at times. The gaping hole is goalie where Toronto is relying James Reimer.

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