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Southeast
Yi-Wyn Yen
October 02, 2006
Carolina Hurricanes
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October 02, 2006

Southeast

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Tampa Bay Lightning

LAST SEASON 43-33-6, eighth in East; lost in first round to Ottawa
KEY ADDITIONS G Marc Denis, D Filip Kuba, D Luke Richardson
KEY LOSSES D Pavel Kubina, LW Fredrik Modin

Training camp was supposed to begin at 7 a.m. on Sept. 14, but the entire team was present when coach John Tortorella kicked off the meeting seven minutes early. The Lightning may have been eager to get its season under way, but don't expect the team to be in attendance come playoff time.

Ever since the 2003--04 Stanley Cup winners got trounced by Ottawa in a five-game first-round series last season, G.M. Jay Feaster has set out to rebuild. But that doesn't mean Tampa Bay has improved much. To replace the struggling goalie tandem of John Grahame and Sean Burke (a combined .891 save percentage), Feaster brought in Marc Denis, who was a disappointment in net for the Avalanche and the Blue Jackets (career record: 94-156-28 and 2.97 goals-against average). The remaking of the blue line included the acquisitions of mobile Filip Kuba but also slow-footed Luke Richardson, who is a career minus-120.

While the Cup-winning offense--led by center Vincent Lecavalier (35 goals, 40 assists), center Brad Richards (23 goals, 68 assists) and right wing Martin St. Louis (31 goals, 30 assists)--remains intact, the Lightning's fixes, though not too late, are too little.

Florida Panthers

LAST SEASON 37-34-11, 11th in East
KEY ADDITIONS D Bryan Allen, G Alex Auld, RW Todd Bertuzzi, LW Ville Peltonen
KEY LOSSES G.M. Mike Keenan, G Roberto Luongo

In the NHL's southernmost outpost, front-office politics, not the hurricane season, spun this team into disarray. In September, All-Star goalie Roberto Luongo, the face of the franchise for five seasons, was traded for troubled winger Todd Bertuzzi and three others to boost Florida's offense. The deal was orchestrated by G.M. Mike Keenan, who 10 days before training camp abruptly resigned, leaving Jacques Martin to juggle the roles of coach and G.M.

Keenan did provide the club with some stability during his 28-month tenure, signing captain Olli Jokinen (38 goals, 51 assists) and 6'4", 220-pound center Chris Gratton to multiyear deals. The Panthers will return eight players who scored 15 or more goals last year. "We've got four solid lines," says left wing Martin Gelinas. To stay out of the division cellar, Florida will need consistent play out of each of them.

Washington Capitals

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