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NHL Eastern Conference Capsules

1. Buffalo

GM: Darcy Regier.

Head coach: Lindy Ruff

Out: D Jay McKee, F J.P. Dumont, F Taylor Pyatt, F Mike Grier.

In: D Jaroslav Spacek.

Good: Young guns G Ryan Miller and F Thomas Vanek have a season under their belts.

Not so good: Shot-blocker McKee is a big loss.

Conclusion: A team with no gaping holes that will be hard to beat.

2. Carolina

GM: Jim Rutherford.

Head coach: Peter Laviolette.

Out: G Martin Gerber, D Aaron Ward, F Matt Cullen, F Mark Recchi, F Doug Weight.

In: G John Grahame, D David Tanabe, D Jason Woolley, F Brad Isbister, F Jesse Boulerice, F Scott Walker, F Shane Willis.

Good: Stanley Cup champions still have all their biggest pieces, and Erik Cole should be back.

Not so good: Cory Stillman out for three months and Ward was a solid defenceman in the Canes' Cup drive.

Conclusion: If veteran Rod Brind'Amour can have another big year and young G Cam Ward holds up, they'll contend again.

3. N.Y. Rangers

GM: Glen Sather.

Head coach: Tom Renney.

Out: D Tom Poti, F Steve Rucchin, F Martin Rucinsky, F Dominic Moore.

In: D Aaron Ward, D Karel Rachunek, F Brendan Shanahan, F Matt Cullen, F Adam Hall.

Good: Landing Shanahan was a big boost, the defence is deeper and Cullen upgrades the second line.

Not so good: Jaromir Jagr's sore shoulder is a concern.

Conclusion: If Henrik Lundqvist's goaltending holds up, they'll take another step forward.

4. Philadelphia

GM: Bob Clarke.

Head coach: Ken Hitchcock.

Out: D Eric Desjardins, D Kim Johnsson, F Keith Primeau, F Michal Handzus, F Turner Stevenson.

In: D Nolan Baumgartner, F Marty Murray, F Riley Cote, F Randy Robitaille, F Kyle Calder, F Boyd Kane.

Good: With Peter Forsberg's expected return from injury, the team has a nice mix of experience and young talent.

Not so good: Forsberg's health is always iffy, and goaltending is sometimes less than stellar.

Conclusion: A team that could finish first or 10th, depending on its health.

5. Boston

GM: Peter Chiarelli.

Head coach: Dave Lewis.

Out: G Andrew Raycroft, D Nick Boynton, D Hal Gill, D Jiri Slegr, D David Tanabe, D Brian Leetch, F Alexei Zhamnov, F Travis Green, F Shawn MacEachern, F Brad Isbister.

In: G Brian Findley, D Zdeno Chara, D Paul Mara, D Jason York, D Wade Brookbank, F Phil Kessel, F Marc Savard, F Shean Donovan, F Mark Mowers, F Jeff Hoggan, F Peter Tenkrat.

Good: Serious upgrade on defence with Chara and at second-line centre and on the power play with Savard.

Not so good: Goaltending looks good, but is untested over time.

Conclusion: In everything falls into place, they could take the conference.

6. Ottawa

GM: John Muckler.

Head coach: Bryan Murray.

Out: G Dominik Hasek, D Zdeno Chara, D Brian Pothier, F Martin Havlat, F Brian Smolinski, F Vaclav Varada, F Tyler Arnason.

In: G Martin Gerber, D Joe Corvo, D Tom Preissing, F Michal Barinka, F Dean McAmmond, F Alexei Kaigorodov.

Good: Gerber settles last season's goaltending issue.

Not so good: Losing Chara and Havlat makes them a little less scary.

Conclusion: They're thinner, but there are still enough guns up front and quality defencemen in back to win.

7. Tampa Bay

GM: Jay Feaster.

Head coach: John Tortorella.

Out: G John Grahame, G Fredrik Norrena, D Darryl Sydor, D Pavel Kubina, D Timo Helbling, F Fredrik Modin, F Dave Andreychuk.

In: G Marc Denis, G Johan Holmqvist, D Filip Kuba, D Andy Delmore, D Doug Janik, D Luke Richardson, F Eric Perrin, F Nikita Alexeev.

Good: Goaltending is stronger and they still have a first-rate power play.

Not so good: Salary cap issues cost Sydor and Kubina.

Conclusion: The 2004 champions still have enough to contend.

8. Montreal

GM: Bob Gainey.

Head coach: Guy Carbonneau.

Out: F Mike Ribeiro, F Richard Zednik, F Jan Bulis, F Niklas Sundstrom.

In: D Janne Niinimaaa, F Sergei Samsonov, F Mike Johnson, F Guillaume Latendresse.

Good: A core of quick young players keeps maturing.

Not so good: Thin on defence, not very big.

Conclusion: Goaltender Cristobal Huet must show he wasn't a one-year wonder.

9. New Jersey

GM: Lou Lamoriello.

Head coach: Claude Julien.

Out: F Viktor Kozlov.

In: D Mike Mattau, F Michael Rupp.

Good: Three strong lines and hockey's best goalie in Martin Brodeur.

Not so good: Salary cap issues leave threat of trades hanging over team.

Conclusion: If everyone can be kept, they're good enough to win the conference.

10. Toronto

GM: John Ferguson Jr.

Head coach: Paul Maurice.

Out: G Ed Belfour, D Luke Richardson, D Aki Berg, F Eric Lindros, F Tie Domi, F Jason Allison, F Alexander Khavanov, F Clarke Wilm.

In: G Andrew Raycroft, D Pavel Kubina, D Hal Gill, F Michael Peca.

Good: Raycroft and Kubina strengthen two key positions.

Not so good: Still thin on defence and, after the top line, unproven up front.

Conclusion: Can be a playoff team if young players step up.

11. Florida

GM: Jacques Martin.

Head coach: Jacques Martin.

Out: G Roberto Luongo, D Sean Hill, D Lucas Krajicek, F Jon Sim.

In: G Ed Belfour, G Alex Auld, D Ruslan Salei, D Bryan Allen, F Todd Bertuzzi, F Ville Peltonen.

Good: Bertuzzi gives Olli Jokinen a top power winger and the defence is deeper.

Not so good: Losing Luongo weakens a key position.

Conclusion: Everything hangs on the goaltending, particularly Belfour's bad back.

12. Atlanta

GM: Don Waddell.

Head coach: Bob Hartley.

Out: D Jaroslav Modry, D Petteri Nummelin, F Marc Savard, F Patrik Stefan, F Peter Bondra, F Serge Aubin.

In: G Johan Hedberg, G Fred Brathwaite, D Vitali Vishnevski, F Niko Kapanen, F Steve Rucchin, F Glen Metropolit, F Jason Krog, F Jon Sim, F Kyle Wanvig.

Good: Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa remain top offensive thrests.

Not so good: Loss of Savard weakens the top line and the power play.

Conclusion: Young goalie Kari Lehtonen should be busy.

13. N.Y. Islanders

GM Garth Snow.

Head coach: Ted Nolan.

Out: G Garth Snow, D John Erskine.

In: D Tom Poti, D Sean Hill, D Brendan Witt, F Mike Sillinger, F Andy Hilbert, F Chris Simon.

Good: Added depth on defence.

Not so good: Many question marks over management changes, and Rick DiPietro's 15-year contract.

Conclusion: Nolan's return to the NHL won't be easy.

14. Pittsburgh

GM Ray Shero.

Head coach: Michel Therrien.

Out: G Sebastien Caron, D Lyle Odelein, F Shane Endicott, F Andy Hilbert.

In: D Mark Eaton, D Kris Letang, F Evgeni Malkin, F Jordan Staal, F Mark Recchi, F Dominic Moore, F Nils Ekman, F Jarkko Ruuttu.

Good: Emerging star Sidney Crosby has a year's experience and they are deeper at forward.

Not so good: Malkin's debut delayed by injury.

Conclusion: The future looks bright, but they're still a year or two away.

15. Washington

GM: George McPhee.

Head coach: Glen Hanlon.

Out: D Mathieu Biron, F Jeff Halpern, F Brian Willsie, F Andrew Cassels.

In: D Brian Pothier, D John Erskine, F Richard Zednik, F Donald Brashear, F Alexander Semin.

Good: Alexander Ovechkin has a year's experience to draw on.

Not so good: No key players added.

Conclusion: This is a longer-term project than Pittsburgh.



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