As the NHL preseason continues and the upcoming 2011-12 season less than two weeks away, here’s a look at what I consider the main questions dogging each team in the Eastern Conference.
Boston Bruins. Can they overcome the “Stanley Cup hangover” and repeat as champions? Is David Krejci ready to move up as a first line center? Will Tyler Seguin be given an opportunity to shine?
Buffalo Sabres. Can Derek Roy and Jason Pominville stay healthy? Will they avoid overplaying goalie Ryan Miller? Will their new additions (Christian Ehrhoff, Robyn Regehr, Ville Leino) mesh well with their teammates?
Carolina Hurricanes. Can Brian Boucher successfully lighten Cam Ward’s workload? Who plays on Eric Staal’s wing? Can Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner avoid the “sophomore slump”?
Florida Panthers. Can turning over nearly half the roster result in a playoff contender? Will prospect Eric Gudbranson have a successful debut? Is Jose Theodore capable of replacing the departed Tomas Vokoun?
Montreal Canadiens. Can Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges bounce back from season-ending knee surgeries? Will Max Pacioretty be adversely affected by his season-ending neck injury? Can Scott Gomez regain his offensive touch?
New Jersey Devils. Does Martin Brodeur have enough left for one more stellar season in goal? Will Zach Parise be slowed by last year’s knee surgery? Can Ilya Kovalchuk regain his high-scoring ways?
New York Islanders. Can Rick DiPietro finally put his injury woes behind him? Is John Tavares poised for a high-scoring season? Is this predominantly young team finally ready for playoff contention?
New York Rangers. Will Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik mesh well as linemates? Is their youthful defense corps ready for more responsibilities? Will they avoiding overplaying goalie Henrik Lundqvist?
Ottawa Senators. Can Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson avoid injury? Can Sergei Gonchar rebound from a poor 2010-11 season? Which of their young players will step up and make a difference?
Philadelphia Flyers. Can Ilya Bryzgalov handle the pressure of being the Flyers starting goalie? Are Chris Pronger’s best days behind him? How well will their offense perform without Mike Richards and Jeff Carter?
Pittsburgh Penguins. Will Sidney Crosby’s concussion issues ultimately affect his performance? Is Evgeni Malkin ready to step into a leadership role? Can James Neal rediscover his scoring touch?
Tampa Bay Lightning. Does 41-year-old goalie Dwayne Roloson have enough left for one more season? Can team captain Vincent Lecavalier regain his offensive touch? Is this the year Victor Hedman finally blossoms into a number one defenseman?
Toronto Maple Leafs. Will James Riemer and Jonas Gustavsson finally provide the Maple Leafs with quality goaltending? Will Tim Connolly and Matthew Lombardi have healthy seasons? Does this team finally have sufficient scoring depth at forward?
Washington Capitals. Will Tomas Vokoun provide them with championship goaltending? Can this team finally achieve the right balance of offense and defense to go deep in the post-season? Will Alexander Semin and Mike Green silence their critics?
Winnipeg Jets. Can this team improve its defensive game? Can Dustin Byfuglien improve on last season’s stellar performance? Will Evander Kane have a breakout performance?