Detroit Red Wings
The Goalies: After a protracted contract battle, veteran Mike Vernon is back, but he might not be the Wings' No. 1 netminder. Although coach Scott Bowman likes Vernon, Jim Devellano and Ken Holland of the Detroit front office are pushing Bowman to use 22-year-old Chris Osgood more. "Chris is ready," says Holland, the assistant general manager. "How do we know he can't do what Martin Brodeur did in New Jersey, what Felix Potvin did in Toronto?"
Players to Watch: Sleeping giant Keith Primeau, a 6'4", 210-pound center, awoke in the playoffs, yawned, stretched, then mashed Chicago into pulp. He needed help against the bigger Devils in the Cup finals. At some point during the season that help might come from a 6'3", 208-pound rookie right wing from the University of Michigan, Mike Knuble.
Questions: Can center Sergei Fedorov reassert himself as one of the NHLs premier two-way players, and will Norris Trophy winner Paul Coffey continue to stifle his offensive instincts and play hard in his own end?
TV Timeout: Fourth-line center Tim Taylor bought a house and spent the summer fixing it up.
Outlook: The Red Wings didn't get bigger or add the charismatic leader who can take them the last step, but their talent should bring them back to the Cup finals. First in the conference.
St. Lou is Blues
Fiscal Fitness? In the never-ending search for his kind of players, coach and general manager Mike Keenan went on a $25.6 million binge in the off-season to sign unrestricted free agents Dale Hawerchuk ($7.3 million over three years), Geoff Courtnall ($6.6 million, three years), Brian Noonan ($2.8 million, three years) and Grant Fuhr ($2 million, two years). He also signed restricted free agent Shayne Corson ($6.9 million, five years) and acquired 20-year-old defenseman Chris Pronger (for star forward Brendan Shanahan).
First-Team, All-Richard Simmons: Goalie Fuhr reported to camp at 219 pounds, 30 more than his playing weight, and so out of shape that Keenan sent him home. Fuhr returned a week later after losing 14 pounds. "The scary thing is that I've been fatter than that," he said. Pronger ranked 44th out of the 46 players in camp in a fitness test, and Keenan went ballistic. 'Are you serious?" he screamed. "You're 20 years old. Do you know who I traded for you?"