Montreal should make the playoffs, and coach Jacques Martin's defense should help Price. Of course, sometimes chemistry experiments go boom.
LAST SEASON 41-32-9 (10th in East)
KEY ADDITIONS D Joe DiPenta, RW Mike Grier, D Steve Montador
KEY LOSSES RW Maxim Afinogenov, D Teppo Numminen, LW Andrew Peters, D Jaroslav Spacek
In exit interviews after last season, coach Lindy Ruff threw some cold water on the core players of a franchise that leads the NHL in self-pity. (Gee, you would think Chris Drury and Daniel Brière, free-agent class of 2007, had bolted Buffalo yesterday considering how often their names still come up.) "Those guys have to take the next step, first and foremost, by holding themselves accountable," said Ruff, referring to 40-goal scorer Thomas Vanek (below) and No. 1 center Derek Roy, among others. "We're close, but it's going to take that much more to get in [the playoffs]."
The repatriation of Mike Grier—"a no-excuses guy, a great work ethic," Ruff enthuses—might bolster the dressing room. But Buffalo needs a healthy year from soft-handed center Tim Connolly, who was limited to 48 games in each of the past two seasons, and continued stellar work from goalie Ryan Miller, who had a .918 save percentage playing behind a so-so defense. If the Sabres don't get both, exit interviews will again be in April, not May or June.