NHL

Roster problems in Eastern Conference: Part 1

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Spector

At home in Prince Edward Island, Canada, he's known as Lyle Richardson. But around these parts, he's known as Spector, FOXSports.com's Prince of Pucks. Check in with Spector's NHL Blog on Yardbarker.com for NHL rumors and analysis.

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With training camps for the NHL's 30 teams due to begin in less than a month, general managers will be preparing to evaluate their rosters to determine their strengths and weaknesses. Some teams, however, could head into training camp with some glaring weaknesses that have yet to be addressed. Here's the first of a two-part look at the Eastern Conference teams and their respective roster needs. Atlanta Thrashers: Uncertainty over the future of superstar Ilya Kovalchuk — he's eligible for unrestricted free agent status next summer — could hang over the club this season. They still have to sort out their logjam in goal between Kari Lehtonen, Ondrej Pavelec and Johan Hedberg. More will be expected from younger players like Bryan Little, Zach Bogosian and Boris Valabik. Boston Bruins: After finishing first overall in the East last season, the Bruins must prove capable of handling heightened expectations. Restricted free-agent winger Phil Kessel's contract status could prove an unnecessary distraction heading into the start of the upcoming season. Management added another experienced blueliner, but they could use a veteran shut-down defenseman. Buffalo Sabres: Starting goaltender Ryan Miller and key center Tim Connolly must stay healthy this season. Jason Pominville and Derek Roy must rebound offensively after their numbers dipped last season. More will be expected from promising forwards Drew Stafford and Clarke MacArthur. They play an energetic team defense but their blueline lacks a stud defenseman. Carolina Hurricanes: Their surprise march to last spring's conference final will raise expectations. Eric Staal remains the sole standout offensive forward. Rod Brind'amour and Ray Whitney are showing their age while the offensive skills of Erik Cole and Sergei Samsonov appear in decline. Joni Pitkanen or Joe Corvo will have to step up to replace the offense of departed defenseman Anton Babchuk. Florida Panthers: It remains to be seen how they'll cope without long-time defensive star Jay Bouwmeester, who was dealt to Calgary in June. Forwards Nathan Horton, David Booth, Stephen Weiss and Michael Frolik will be under pressure to carry the bulk of the offensive load. Lack of a significant physical presence on their blueline could be an issue. Montreal Canadiens: Highly touted — some suggest overrated — goaltender Carey Price must rebound from an inconsistent performance last season. It remains to be seen how the numerous offseason roster changes plus an overhauled coaching staff affects team chemistry. Despite adding more offensive skill, the Canadiens are still lacking size at forward — especially at center. New Jersey Devils: A lack of skilled depth at center could become a significant problem. Superstar goalie Martin Brodeur is aging, yet the Devils still lack a quality backup and could end up overworking him again. The defense corps is sound but they've lacked a top puck-moving defenseman since Scott Niedermayer and Brian Rafalski left town. New York Islanders: Added experienced goaltending in Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron, adding to concerns over the health of oft-injured franchise goalie Rick DiPietro. First overall pick John Tavares will face tremendous pressure to meet lofty expectations. They could also use another seasoned offensive blueliner to help Mark Streit carry the load, plus another experienced physical defenseman.
Tagged: Sabres, Flames, Dwayne Roloson, Red Wings, Erik Cole, Rick DiPietro, Hurricanes, Kings, Ilya Kovalchuk, Canadiens, Eric Staal, Devils, Islanders, Nathan Horton, Kari Lehtonen, Johan Hedberg, Michael Frolik, Jay Bouwmeester, Joni Pitkanen, Ducks, Derek Roy, Panthers, Carey Price, Jets, Mark Streit, Jason Pominville, Sergei Samsonov, Clarke MacArthur, Boris Valabik, Zach Bogosian, Stephen Weiss, Phil Kessel, Scott Niedermayer, Martin Brodeur, Anton Babchuk, Ryan Miller, John Tavares, Tim Connolly, Drew Stafford, Brian Rafalski, David Booth, Ondrej Pavelec, Ray Whitney, Martin Biron, Bryan Little, Bruins

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