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NHL Power Rankings

Bob Grove breaks down the league division-by-division and says the Pens, Bruins, Caps, Canucks, Blackhawks and Sharks are the teams to beat. Find out who’s bringing what to the 2011-12 NHL party.

Atlantic Division
If the revamped power play produces goals and Crosby returns as expected, all the pieces in place to compete for the Cup.
Philadelphia: Bryzgalov a great addition, but young stars Giroux, van Riemsdyk must reach another level to make Holmgren’s bold off-season moves work.
NY Rangers: If Richards and Gaborik can lead the way to more goals, and Staal doesn’t have concussion complications, they’re now gritty enough to be among the league’s better teams.
New Jersey: The goaltending is no longer dominant, and it’s questionable whether new coach DeBoer has enough scoring depth to make up for it.
NY Islanders: If the goaltending is consistent—hardly a given—and Tavares, Moulson & Co. show they’ve learned from past failures, could challenge for playoff spot.

Northeast Division
No major losses, so it’s just a question of handling the rigors of a short off-season and the challenge of being everyone’s big game.
Buffalo: Overpaid Leino, Ehrhoff in a busy off-season, but those two join Regehr in making the Sabres a more well-rounded team.
Toronto: Liles and Franson bring more skill to the defense, but the big challenge is preventing goals, especially on the penalty kill, and that’s why goaltender Reimer must deliver.
Montreal: GM Gauthier didn’t upgrade the attack, so there will be continued pressure on Price to win close games.
Ottawa: Healthy Alfredsson, bounce-back for Gonchar should help improve scoring for new coach MacLean, but goaltending and defense still average at best.

Southeast Division
Washington: A very good team trying to shake history of underachievement, but right now it must begin with more leadership and goals from Ovechkin after a productive off-season.
Tampa Bay: A lot riding on heretofore ageless Roloson, but Bolts have experience and the guns up front to push Capitals again.
Winnipeg: New city, new coach in Noel and new management team. Unfortunately, getting back to the playoffs will be a process.
Carolina: Middle-of-the-road team needs more scorers behind Staal and Skinner and better defensive play. It might help if Ward played a bit less.
Florida: New coach Dineen has an overhauled, patchwork roster filled with wildly overpaid players. At least they haven’t given up.

Central Division
Still great top-end talent, but need more from Hossa to make another Cup run, and it’s uncertain how much Olesz, Brunette will contribute.
Detroit: Will miss Rafalski, but the usual cast of stars will keep the Wings among the best teams in the West.
St. Louis: Adding Arnott and Langenbrunner to a team with some good young talent might be the perfect moves for Blues.
Nashville: Solid team, solid coach and now a playoff victory under their belt, but Preds won’t make serious Cup run until they get a game-breaking offensive talent.
Columbus: Carter, Wisniewski and Prospal should provide much-needed offensive boost, but progress won’t be made without better play from goaltender Mason.

Pacific Division
San Jose:
Burns and Boyle should QB a potent PP, and Havlat will have more talent to work with up front on yet another good Sharks’ team.
Anaheim: Adding a healthy Hiller to a team loaded with offensive guns gives the Ducks the foundation upon which to build a solid season.
Los Angeles: The fallout of the Doughty contract battle and Richards’ assimilation to LA are the key questions for a team that boasts a good young defensive corps.
Phoenix: Goaltending won’t be as good, but Tippett will find a way to cobble together another competitive club. It would help immensely if Turris (if signed) and Boedker figure it out.
Dallas: With Richards gone, just not enough big-time difference-makers for new coach Gulutzan to get this group into the playoffs.

Northwest Division
If the Sedins and Luongo learned from last spring’s Cup run, no reason Canucks can’t make another.
Calgary: GM Feaster staying with a team full of veterans, so they’ll need repeat performances from Glencross, Bourque and Tanguay. And how about some rest for Kiprusoff?
Minnesota: New coach Yeo’s roster has changed as Wild try to find some goals and get back to the playoffs. If Heatley finds his old form, they have a shot.
Colorado: Some really intriguing young talent, but the mix of veterans around them leaves something to be desired.
Edmonton: The timing of veteran Smyth’s return is perfect for this young team, and Renney is a good guy to have teaching the lessons. Should be fun to watch them improve.

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