Last season: Second in the conference, lost to the Boston Bruins in the second round of the playoffs.
How they’ve changed: Well, where to begin? The Flyers dealt their captain, Mike Richards, and top sniper, Jeff Carter. They brought in veteran goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, the most recent attempt at answering a perennial question: how good would these guys be if they had a proper goalie? Up front, the Flyers are younger and faster with players such as Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmons (acquired for Richards) and Jakub Voracek (acquired for Carter). Chris Pronger is the new captain, enough said.
Training camp decision: Sean Couturier, the 18-year-old the Flyers drafted in the first round last June, is making a strong bid to start the season at centre. Another youngster, Matt Read, is also staking a claim for a spot.
Last season: Fourth in East, lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
How they’ve changed: For one thing, the Penguins are healthier. Evgeni Malkin is back after knee surgery and Sidney Crosby is nearing a return from post-concussion symptoms. Sure, defenceman Brooks Orpik is on the shelf after abdominal surgery, but should be back soon. The Penguins added James Neal at the deadline last year, and have tried to improve their problematic winger situation by bringing in veterans Steve Sullivan and Richard Park.
Training camp decision: First-round draft pick Joseph Morrow is vying for a place on the Pittsburgh blueline, if only for a nine-game cameo. The 18-year-old could stick, although veterans Alexandre Picard and Brian Strait may be likelier candidates.
NEW YORK RANGERS
Last season: Eighth in the East, lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Washington Capitals.
How they’ve changed: The Rangers successfully wooed the hottest property of the summer free agent bonanza in Brad Richards. Whether star winger Marian Gaborik can stay healthy enough to make beautiful music with one of the NHL’s best playmakers is the key question. The Rangers’ improving core of young defencemen should be a benefit to goalie Henrik Lundqvist, one of the league’s best.
Training camp decision: With stud defenceman Marc Staal out with a concussion, the Rangers are looking hard at prospect Tim Erixon, a former Calgary Flames first-rounder. There is also a competition for the fourth-line centre job. Brian Boyle is reported to have the inside track, but Erik Christensen could be a possibility.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Last season: 11th in the East, missed the playoffs.
How they’ve changed: The Devils haven’t changed all that much this season, which may be a good thing. Once they ironed out the kinks after a dismal start, the Devils were one of the league’s hottest teams. Now Zach Parise is back and healthy – albeit with only a one-year contract – and Ilya Kovalchuk is on the same page as the coaches, the Devils could have a strong bounce-back year. They’ll start without a key performer in the injured Travis Zajac, but they welcome another potential difference-maker, defensive prospect Adam Larsson.
Training camp decision: Is Jacob Josefson ready to be a full-time, top-six centre in Zajac’s absence? He’ll have to be, given the other options are David Steckel and Rod Pelley.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Last season: 14th in the East, missed the playoffs.
How they’ve changed: The youthful Islanders are a year wiser, and they’ve added some grey hairs with veterans Brian Rolston and Marty Reasoner, both of whom should have a good influence in the room. More important, the Isles made up with goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who was plucked off waivers last year but refused to report. He’s in camp, and with the oft-injured Rick DiPietro and journeyman Al Montoya, the Isles look good in net. Now, about that defence ...
Training camp decision: Former first-rounder Nino Niederreiter nearly made the team last year as an 18-year-old, and looks set for a roster spot this year. It remains to be seen whether he snaffles P.A. Parenteau’s spot on the second line.Report Typo/Error