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Ten things fans can watch for during the 2006-2007 NHL season

Here are our Top 10:

1. Canada's six teams embark on missions to win the Stanley Cup.

Hey, we've waited a long time, since 1993 in fact, when Montreal prevailed, to bring it back to where it belongs.

Calgary and Edmonton made it to the last two championship series, getting to within one win of the title each time. Canada is due, eh.

2. Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin will reprise sensational rookie seasons in which they both amassed more than 100 points.

They are the two most magnificent young stars in the sport - full of pizzazz and pop. Highlight reels to follow.

3. Shooting for 60 goals.

Nobody has done it since Mario Lemieux netted 69 and Jaromir Jagr got 62 for Pittsburgh in 1995-96. The closest since then was Pavel Bure's 58 in 1999-2000 for Florida. Jonathan Cheechoo got close with 56 last year for San Jose.

The new, obstruction-free NHL provides the chance for a 60-goal shooter this season.

4. Three of the league's all-time best forwards are about to smash the 600-goal barrier.

Only 14 men have scored more than 600. Ready to join them are Brendan Shanahan, who needs only two more, Jaromir Jagr, who is nine shy, and Joe Sakic, who is 26 away from the magic number.

Sakic, whose 1,489 points are the most for any active player, will become the 12th to amass 1,500.

5. The trend towards fewer fights.

There was an average of 0.38 fights a game last season, down from 0.64 per game in 2003-2004.

Tie Domi was bought out by the Leafs because he'd become a dinosaur and that was just one example of how the role of the enforcer is nearing extinction around the league because teams can't afford to set aside a roster spot for a brawler who can't keep up with faster opponents in the new, high-speed NHL.

6. It is an extraordinary situation: players who are legal adversaries will be opponents on the ice.

Detroit defenceman Chris Chelios and Edmonton goaltender Dwayne Roloson are among those who have filed a lawsuit in the ongoing struggle for control of the NHL Players' Association that names, among others, Vancouver centre Trevor Linden and St. Louis forward Bill Guerin.

Will Roloson slash the back of Linden's legs with zest during those eight Oilers-Canucks meetings?

Will Chelios have his elbows sharpened when he goes after Guerin in the corners during those eight Red Wings-Blues games?

7. The return of Ted Nolan.

After nine years out of the NHL, Nolan returns to coach the New York Islanders.

Some say he was blackballed after being axed in Buffalo, where he won the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year in 1996-97. Regardless, Nolan faces quite a challenge on Long Island with a team most predict will be hard-pressed to make the playoffs.

Nolan is highly respected for his work with First Nations youth and hockey fans in those many communities across Canada will be watching his progress closely.

8. Attempts will be made by Eric Lindros and Owen Nolan to make it through a full season, which is something neither have accomplished lately.

Lindros, who has suffered eight concussions, appeared in 33 games with Toronto last season, and 39 with the Rangers in his previous season. He'll try again with Dallas.

Nolan last appeared in the NHL in 2003-2004 with Toronto and now Wayne Gretzky is giving him a comeback chance in Phoenix.

9. The Carolina Hurricanes will try to defy parity and repeat as champions.

No team has won the title two years in a row since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998.

10. How long will it take Don Cherry to stir up a hornet's nest?

The opinionated Cherry returns to Hockey Night In Canada on Coach's Corner, and the politically correct cringe.

Stay tuned.



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