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NHL Power Ratings

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Bob Grove's annual predictions

Eastern Conference

ATLANTIC

Pittsburgh: Martin, Michalek will improve defense. Can challenge for Cup with bounce-back seasons from Fleury, Malkin and improved power play.

Philadelphia: Solid defense, and Cup run should improve confidence of Giroux, van Riemsdyk. But, hey, goaltending questions as always.

New Jersey: Volchenkov, Tallinder help D, but Brodeur’s consistency and Kovalchuk’s ability to handle enormous pressure big questions for new coach MacLean.

NY Rangers: Frolov, White not enough to provide meaningful improvement for anemic attack. Handcuffed by Redden contract.

NY Islanders: Promising young forwards to build around, but Eaton, Jurcina, Wisniewski don’t dramatically improve defense that needs healthy DiPietro.

NORTHEAST

Ottawa:
Kuba injury hurts early, and won’t be as hard to play against without Sutton, Volchenkov. But Gonchar, healthy Kovalev boost PP.

Boston: NHL’s weakest attack added only enigmatic Horton, so Rask and Bruins need another outstanding defensive season to forget playoff meltdown.

Buffalo: Desperately need Vanek to rediscover scoring touch and help take some pressure off Miller in goal.

Montreal: Essentially returns intact from surprising playoff run with one overwhelming question: was Price the right goalie to keep?

Toronto: Versteeg and full season from Giguere help. But special teams, scoring depth and overall defensive play need huge improvements.

SOUTHEAST

Washington:
Surprisingly silent this summer, and questions remain about young goalies and defensive commitment, but Caps remain best in an improving division.

Tampa Bay: The Yzerman Era begins with a terrific top six and new coach Bouchard, but lots of personnel change means improvement may take time.

Atlanta: Chicago South should benefit from Cup experience of Byfuglien, Sopel, Eager and Ladd. Bergfors and Peverley must score for new coach Ramsay.

Carolina: Loss of Whitney will hurt immensely, and Sutter needs to take bigger role. Return of Corvo, Babchuk not significant moves.

Florida: A healthy Booth would be big start up front. Wideman helps on D, but still a team that has to prove it can learn defensive fundamentals.

Western Conference

CENTRAL


Detroit: Healthy Franzen, Kronwall and return of Hudler are a boost. Questionable if Modano can have measurable impact.

Chicago: What Cup winner can lose eight players and return to Final? Still very good, but not the same depth and Turco isn’t answer in goal.

St. Louis: Halak gets to prove he’s a No. 1, but Blues go nowhere without much more from Backes, Steen, Perron and Boyes.

Nashville: Gritty, well-coached and sound defensively with monster Weber. But still lacking the big-time scorer; Lombardi isn’t it.

Columbus: If G Mason returns to form and Filatov is serious about NHL game, Jackets will improve under new coach Arniel.

PACIFIC

San Jose:
Adding G Niemi a great move, as was re-signing Marleau. Remain one of the West’s best teams.

Los Angeles: Lots of hype for promising young team, and rightly so. Doughty, Kopitar, Quick only getting better, and good vets to guide them.

Phoenix: Loss of Michalek hurts. But healthy Upshall, Whitney, improving Hanzal and Wolski could make workhorse Bryzgalov breathe easier.

Anaheim: With Getzlaf healthy and Ryan signed, rebuilt defense must come together and team must learn discipline to reach playoffs.

Dallas: G Lehtonen critical to defensive improvement, but his track record is shaky. Did little to improve depth, so youngsters are key.

NORTHWEST

Vancouver:
Hamhuis, Ballard solid pickups on D, and Torres, Malhotra help depth. Could make a run for Cup if Luongo ever comes through.

Minnesota: Need healthy Bouchard and more of same from Latendresse, but nothing more important than wakeup call for Havlat.

Colorado: Not much added to blossoming stable of young forwards, so G Anderson might be key to improvement.

Calgary: Return of Tanguay, Jokinen still among most curious moves of summer, and when is Bouwmeester going to reach his true potential?

Edmonton: Hall, Eberle outstanding young players, but boy are they going to take their lumps this season.

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