Team-by-team NHL preview

October 06, 1995

Atlantic Division

Florida Panthers

Coach: Doug MacLean

Record: 20-22-6 (5th)

Outlook: The Panthers have missed the playoffs by one point in )) each of their two seasons, but likely won't come that close this season. No team scored fewer goals than the Panthers' 115 last season, and Jesse Belanger and Stu Barnes tied for the team lead with 29 points each. Florida was the league's sixth-best defensive team, but won't be again if goalie John Vanbiesbrouck is traded.

Key player: Ed Jovanovski. The 19-year-old defenseman will be counted on to provide the scoring and toughness that encouraged the Panthers to draft him No. 1 in 1994. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder had 23 goals and 198 penalty minutes in 50 games in juniors last season, and is expected to help immediately.

New Jersey Devils

Coach: Jacques Lemaire

Record: 22-18-8 (t-2nd)

Outlook: It's been an unsettling off-season for the defending Stanley Cup champs. Goaltender Martin Brodeur and defenseman Scott Niedermayer held out and returned to camp late, and Claude Lemieux held out until he was traded. The Devils ended up with Steve Thomas in the three-way deal. Lemaire won't let New Jersey slack off like the New York Rangers did after winning the Cup, but the Devils could use more offense.

Key player: Scott Stevens. The Devils' captain had only 22 points in 48 games last season after signing a $17 million contract. His offensive game needs to pick up to make up for the loss of Bruce Driver, who signed with the Rangers.

New York Islanders

Coach: Mike Milbury

Record: 15-28-5 (7th)

Outlook: Milbury takes over the second-worst team in the NHL. The Islanders have a promising group of young players led by defenseman Bryan McCabe and left wing Todd Bertuzzi, but are likely to miss the playoffs for the fifth time in eight seasons. The leading returning scorer is newly acquired Wendel Clark (30 points) The goalie situation is unsettled with Jamie McLennan and Tommy Soderstrom splitting time last season; Tommy Salo and Eric Fichaud are promising prospects.

:Key player: Kirk Muller. Acquired from Montreal late in the season, Muller finished the season with 11 goals in 45 games. The Islanders will need more production from him.

New York Rangers

Coach: Colin Campbell

Record: 22-23-3 (4th)

Outlook: The off-season acquisitions of Luc Robitaille, Ulf Samuelsson, Ray Ferraro and Bruce Driver show the Rangers won't settle for one Stanley Cup every 54 years. Mark Messier led the team in scoring with 53 points, but turns 35 in midseason. Brian Leetch is coming off a subpar season (41 points) and a broken foot in the off-season.

Key player: Mike Richter. His 2.92 goals-against doesn't seem bad, but 27 goalies did better. His poor play last season was a reflection -- or perhaps a symptom -- of the team's play. He won 23 games in the Rangers' Stanley Cup-winning 1994 playoffs, and only 14 all last season.

Philadelphia Flyers

Coach: Terry Murray

Record: 28-16-4 (1st)

Outlook: If Eric Lindros, John LeClair and Mikael Renberg -- the "Legion of Doom" line -- can match their production of last season, when they combined for 53 percent of the Flyers' goals, Philadelphia may take the next step to the Stanley Cup finals. They won't do it unless they receive offensive contributions from more than just Rod Brind'Amour (39 points). The off-season acquisitions of center Joel Otto and defenseman Kjell Samuelsson will help, but goaltender Ron Hextall probably isn't the man to lead them to their first Cup since 1975.

Key player:Key player: Lindros. The league's most valuable player tied Jaromir Jagr (70 points) for the league's scoring lead, but did so in two fewer games. He dominates most games and is among the top three players in the NHL.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Coach: Terry Crisp

Record: 17-28-3 (6th)

Outlook: The Lightning haven't been as successful as its neighbors in Miami, but had a shot at making the playoffs last season until losing eight of its final 10 games. The offense was third-worst in the league so the Lightning drafted center Daymond Langkow, who led Canadian junior hockey with 140 points in 72 games for Tri-City. Daren Puppa (2.68 GAA) is a solid goalie.

Key player: Roman Hamrlik. The 21-year-old Czech defenseman started to show the talent that prompted the Lightning to draft him first in 1992. He scored seven of his 12 goals on a power play.

Washington Capitals

Coach: Jim Schoenfeld

Record: 22-18-8 (t-2nd)

Outlook: The Capitals must sign right wing Peter Bondra and center Michal Pivonka. Bondra's 34 goals led the league and accounted for 25 percent of the team's total. First-line center Joe Juneau had 38 assists in 44 games, but must score more than the five goals he had last season.

Key player: Jim Carey. The rookie was third in the league in goals-against average (2.13), and finished third in voting for the league's top goalie. Washington's mediocre offense means Carey will have to excel again for the team to make the playoffs for the 14th straight year.

Northeast Division

Boston Bruins

Coach: Steve Kasper

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