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Eastern Conference
October 09, 1995
CUP CONTENDERS
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October 09, 1995

Eastern Conference

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The New Guys, II: Winger Luc Robitaille is an automatic 40-goal man, but the key player in New York's Aug. 31 trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins is Samuelsson, who makes the aging Ranger defense formidable. When Samuelsson, a.k.a. Mr. Nasty, was traded to the Rangers, he joked that he knew exactly where Mario Lemieux's back was vulnerable. A smiling Lemieux said, "He wasn't joking."

The Questions: Can Messier crank it up for another season? Has Adam Graves, one of the premier forwards during the 1994 Cup run, recovered from the back surgery that hampered him in 1995? Can Lowe, a defenseman who thrives on discreet tugs, adapt to the obstruction calls?

Outlook: The Rangers' one-year Stanley Cup drought could end because of the newly acquired depth and a revival of goalie Mike Richter, but New York looked haggard after one playoff round in 1995. Third in the conference.

CUP PRETENDERS

Boston Bruins

The Trade: Seeing those 104 luxury boxes in the new FleetCenter made Bruin president Harry Sinden, the human balanced-budget amendment, a little giddy. He actually added a big salary and an even bigger player in Kevin Stevens, the left-winger who was acquired during the off-season from the salary-dumping Pittsburgh Penguins. The deal for Stevens and forward Shawn McEachern was a steal for Boston, which no longer is a one-line team. Stevens relieves center Adam Oates, the redoubtable wing Cam Neely and defenseman Raymond Bourque of the responsibility of creating all the offense.

No Rest for Superman: Bourque's ice time was supposed to be reduced to a more human 24 minutes a game this season. Won't happen. Defenseman Al Iafrate is hurt, and the Bruins traded another back-liner, David Shaw, to Tampa Bay. Rookie defenseman Kyle McLaren will eventually be a force, but Bourque will still average about 30 minutes a game.

Did You Know? Boston has made the playoffs a record 28 straight years.

Outlook: Stevens and the Bruins' move to the FleetCenter will perk up a franchise that was growing stale. Fourth in the conference.

Pittsburgh Penguins

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