Your 2011-12 NHL Hotness Preview: Atlantic Division

Pronger

You may call him Captain Pronger. (Getty Images)

The first opening faceoff of the regular season is just a few days away, which brings me a small comfort as Sabathia struggles against the Tigers (as I type this…so many sighs…) Here’s a quick look at what we think is exciting about the Atlantic Division:

New York Islanders

In 2010-11… rallied in the second half of the season, but couldn’t quite make it into the postseason.

This season… The youth movement may not yet bring postseason glory to the Islanders, but at least the team will be fun to watch. Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo, Matt Moulson and the boys will be lead by newly minted captain Mark Streit, who missed last season in its entirety with a shoulder injury. Keeping Dipietro healthy and between the pipes will obviously be key.

Hottie to Watch: 2009 top draft pick John Tavares is ready for his closeup.

TavaresNew Jersey Devils

In 2010-11… finished an embarrassing 11th in the East. C’mon!

This season… I can’t see them not making the postseason a second year in a row. Zach Parise is healthy and Kovalchuk is due to bounce back. Yes, they have a certain aging goaltender (well, make that two) but don’t discount Brodeur: he may not have had his best season last year but was still among the Top 15 goaltenders in GAA.

Hottie to Watch: Welcome back, Zach! We missed you!

PariseNew York Rangers

In 2010-11… slid into the final playoff spot in the East, only to be squished by the Caps in five games in the Conference quarterfinal.

This season… Brad Richards was the big free agent story this summer when he bought his ticket to Broadway and reunited with his Stanley Cup winning coach John Tortorella. It is hoped that the signing will light a fire under the rest of the team, which lacked a 30-goal scorer last season. My concern is their preseason trip to Europe: could it lead to a slow start in October?

Hottie to Watch: He’s from my part of the country (OK, just over the Confederation Bridge) so I am biased. Go Brad! I’m only a little bitter that you didn’t sign with the Leafs.

Brad RichardsPittsburgh Penguins

In 2010-11… lost a certain prolific scorer in January and didn’t get him back for the playoffs. Still managed to take Tampa to a seventh game, but ultimately bowed out in the first round. Then we spent the summer listening to the pundits fret over The Hockey Saviour’s return.

This season… Syd will be back. Trust. There’s no reason to believe the Pens won’t have another winning season: remember they still have Malkin, Letang, Fleury and the leadership of coach Dan Bylsma.

Hottie to Watch: What’s a hockey preview without a Staal brother?

Jordan StaalPhiladelphia Flyers

In 2010-11… finished second in the East and third overall, but lost in the second round of the playoffs to Boston.

This season… Mike Richards and Jeff Carter have gone their merry ways. Enter goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, Brayden Schenn, former Pen Maxime Talbot and HOLY CRAP WHERE DID JAROMIR JAGR COME FROM?!! Will the shift in team chemistry lead to a serious run for the President’s Trophy?

Hottie to Watch: Of course I’m kidding! But don’t you miss this hair? Ah, the 90s.

JagrNow it’s your turn: who do you think will come out on top in the Atlantic?

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