Rejoice, friends, for hockey hath finally returned unto our lives…
The NHL opens its 2013-14 season training camps this week, fans get a chance to see old faces skate with new faces, glimpse the future and figure out who spent the summer eating like a staving pig and drinking like the Flyers in the 1970s.
Coming up, the major camp storylines, battles, subplots and information for the Eastern Conference, a.k.a. the Atlantic Division and what used to be the Atlantic Division.
Where: TD Garden/Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington.
The Storyline: The final two on the blueline. Chara, Seidenberg, McQuaid and Boychuk have the top four defensive spot on lock. The departure of Andrew Ference, meanwhile creates a chance for some competition for the final two spots. Torey Krug, playoff darling, would seem to have the inside track for some of them. But as Matt Kalman notes, Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski, Mike Moore, Joe Morrow and Zach Trotman are going to push for ice time in the bigs.
The Subplot: Where are Loui Eriksson – soooooo underrated – and Jarome Iginla going to end up? Eriksson has been slotted with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand to start, with Iggy up with David Krejci and Milan Lucic. Is that how it’ll play out?
Dude Most Likely To Fight In Camp: AHL P-Bruins penalty minutes leader Bobby Robins should uphold the blue collar aesthetic.
Buffalo Sabres (Training Camp Roster)
Where: First Niagara Center
The Storyline: Ron Rolston’s first camp as an NHL head coach opens with plenty of opportunities for young players to make their mark and earn ice time – many of them having played for Rolston in the AHL. No playin’ favorites, coach …
The Subplot: Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov were first-round picks last summer, with the former going No. 8 overall and the latter going No. 16. Can either make the team? Zadorov is expect to head back to juniors for more seasoning, but the 6-4, 225-pound Pronger-esque Ristolainen might make things interesting with a strong camp. If he doesn’t make the cut, will he head to the AHL or back to Finland?
Dude Most Likely To Fight In Camp: Forward Justin Kea already threw down in the Traverse City tournament.
Detroit Red Wings
Where: Centre I.C.E. (1600 Chartwell Dr, Traverse City, MI)
The Storyline: Jordin Tootoo and Mikael Samuelsson are two veteran players entering camp and guaranteed nothing with regard to this year’s roster.
The Subplot: Brian Lashoff vs. Danny DeKeyser. Two good young defensemen, likely battling for one spot in the final ‘D’ pairing.
Dude Most Likely To Fight In Camp: Uh, did you miss the part where we said Tootoo was trying to win a job?
Florida Panthers (Training Camp Roster)
Where: JetBlue Training Facility at the Saveology.com Iceplex (Saveology IcePlex 3299 Sportsplex Drive Coral Springs, FL)
The Storyline: Second overall pick Alexander Barkov is expected to make the Panthers out of camp this season, but he’s going to have to earn it. Said Dale Tallon to NHL.com: “It's up to him. If he has a great camp, he stays and plays. If he doesn't, there's nothing wrong with him going down to the American [Hockey] League and learning his craft."
The Subplot: The goaltending mystery. Scott Clemmensen is out for a few weeks, but GM Dale Tallon seems desirous to have an upgrade behind Jakob Markstrom. Could that mean Tim Thomas or Ilya Bryzgalov in Sunrise?
Dude Most Likely To Fight In Camp: SUNY-Oswego’s own Erik Selleck amassed a ton of AHL penalty minutes.
Montreal Canadiens (Training Camp Roster)
Where: Bell Sports Complex in Brossard (8000 Boulevard Leduc, Brossard, QC)
The Storyline: Where will Daniel Briere fit? The Flyers buyout victim signed with the Canadiens with a 2-year deal. He’s a versatile forward; could Michel Therrien slot him on the right side in the top six, where Michael Ryder used to ply his trade?
The Subplot: The Waite is over. Goalie coach Stephane Waite left the Chicago Blackhawks after 10 years to rejoin Marc Bergevin with the Canadiens. With Carey Price looking to rebound from a tough season – in an Olympic audition year, no less – what kind of impact can a coach that helped Ray Emery to a 17-1-0 year have on the Habs netminders?
Dude Most Likely To Fight In Camp: Connor Crisp, the 19-year-old nephew of Terry Crisp, earned a training camp invite after rookie camp and is just the kind of burgeoning power forward that might drop’em.
Ottawa Senators (Training Camp Roster)
Where: Bell Sensplex (1565 Maple Grove Rd, Kanata, ON)
The Storyline: Bobby meets Spezza. Bobby Ryan is jacked to join the Ottawa Senators after coming over from the Ducks this summer. One assumes that he’ll be paired with Jason Spezza on the top line; how will the two mesh? Plus, will Spezza take the ‘C’ relinquished by Daniel Alfredsson?
The Subplot: Jean-Gabriel Pageau, the 20-year-old playoff hero last spring, will battle for a roster spot. With Ottawa seeking more offensive, the moment might be his.
Dude Most Likely To Fight In Camp: Chris Neil is our default setting; but AHL pugilist Mark Borowiecki, a defenseman, is also in camp and has been known to drop a glove or two.
Tampa Bay Lightning (Training Camp Roster)
Where: Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The Storyline: Camp Cooper. Jon Cooper gets his first training camp as Lightning head coach, getting a chance to revamp the roster as he sees fit – and, most likely, with a few of his foot soldiers from the AHL.
The Subplot: The 18-year-old wunderkind Jonathan Drouin, taken No. 3 overall last summer, will try and prove he’s NHL ready. Cooper has called Drouin’s skillset at “jaw-dropping.”
Dude Most Likely To Fight In Camp: Radko Gudas likes to fight because his beard blocks any opponents’ offense.
Toronto Maple Leafs (Training Camp Roster)
Where: Mastercard Centre for Hockey Excellence (400 Kipling Ave. Etobicoke, Ont.)
The Storyline: Bernier vs. Reimer. The 25-year-old goaltenders enter camp with Reimer as the incumbent and Bernier as the summer acquisition that management clearly believe can win the job. Reimer back-stopped the Leafs to the playoffs last season but enters the final year of his contract. Bernier has been waiting for his chance at No. 1 for years with the LA Kings. This should be epic.
The Subplot: Morgan Rielly Watch. The talented young defenseman, taken fifth overall in 2012, believes he has a roster spot to lose in camp. Which is the kind of swaggery thing you want to hear from the 19-year-old rookie.
Dude Most Likely To Fight In Camp: Someone’s bound to look at Colton Orr the wrong way in the cafeteria.
Carolina Hurricanes (Training Camp Roster)
Where: PNC Arena.
The Storyline: The Jeff Skinner Domino. As Chip Alexander notes, the former Calder winner is “the big domino” that will fall in the lineup. Will he be on the third line with rookie Elias Lindholm? Will he shift to center? Whatever Kirk Muller decides, it affects everything from the forward lineup to who gets shuttled to the AHL.
The Subplot: Ryan Murphy Time? The No. 12 overall pick in 2011 played four games with the Canes last season, but with Joni Pitkanen injured, the rookie could be counted on as a puck-mover in his absence. (UPDATE: The Canes said on Wednesday that Pitkanen is done for the season. Ouch.)
Dude Most Likely To Fight In Camp: Nicolas Blanchard played nine games last season for Carolina and had four fights. We like those odds.
Columbus Blue Jackets (Training Camp Roster)
Where: OhioHealth Ice Haus/Nationwide Arena.
The Storyline: The young guns must start firing. The Blue Jackets are going to have a young team this season, and that means big roles and significant ice time for Cam Atkinson, Matt Calvert, Ryan Johansen, Boone Jenner and others. With leading scorer Vinny Prospal unsigned and free-agent coup Nathan Horton out for a couple of months, the opportunity’s there.
The Subplot: The last defensive pairing. Assuming that the top four are Jack Johnson, Fedor Tyutin, James Wisniewski and Nikita Nikitin, Puck Rakers sees the battle for Nos. 5 and 6 between Tim Erixon, Ilari Melart, Ryan Murray, Cody Goloubef and David Savard, with Dalton Prout out with an abdominal injury.
Dude Most Likely To Fight In Camp: Dalton Smith had 128 PIMs in the AHL last season and had a mini-doc made about his pugilism.
New Jersey Devils (Training Camp Roster)
Where: Prudential Center.
The Storyline: The chemistry test. The Devils are dramatically different at forward, from the retirement/Russian cash grab of Ilya Kovalchuk and the departure of David Clarkson to the addition of veteran forwards like Jaromir Jagr, Ryane Clowe, Michael Ryder and Rostislav Olesz. The Devils are going to try out more lines than a comedian on open mic night.
The Subplot: Matteau, Matteau? Stefan Matteau made little impact in his time with the Devils last season, but is determined to make the team as a 19 year old this year. Boy, that would be nice, what with the Devils having used a draft pick on him they probably should have surrendered in the Kovalchuk contract penalty.
Dude Most Likely To Fight In Camp: Matteau, who already nearly fought in a prospects camp practice.
New York Islanders
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn; Nassau Coliseum and Iceworks in Syosset, NY.
The Storyline: Ryan Strome, wing man. The No. 5 overall pick in 2011 is as dynamic an offensive prospect the Islanders have in their system, and could stick with the Islanders with a strong camp. He’s a natural center, but it seems like Strome is being groomed to be John Tavares’s wing man on the right side. Moulson-Tavares-Strome? MTS Line? (Well, the Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan in my would prefer MSTie Line, obviously.)
The Subplot: Can Radek Martinek make the cut on a PTO? For the second straight camp, the veteran Islanders defenseman is trying to make the roster in training camp.
Dude Most Likely To Fight In Camp: Joe Finley is on the roster. Fighting in the preseason is what Joe Finley does.
New York Rangers (Training Camp Roster)
Where: Madison Square Garden Training Center (711 Old Saw Mill River Road, Greenburgh, NY)
The Storyline: Alain Vigneault’s de-Tortorella’ing of the Rangers. The former Canucks coach was brought in to change the system and the philosophy of the team after years of the shot-blocking, low-scoring approach of Tortorella. As Mats Zuccarello said: “We can’t just be an offensive team, we have to focus on our defense, that’s most important. At the same time, kind of our issue the last couple of years is scoring goals so maybe we can score some more goals this year. We have a lot of skill guys in here who can do that.”
The Subplot: Dominic Moore is in camp on a 1-year, $1-million contract after sitting out last season to mourn the passing of his wife to cancer. The journeyman would be, without question, one of feel-good stories of camp if he finds a role.
Dude Most Likely To Fight In Camp: This would seem like a very Arron Asham thing to do.
Philadelphia Flyers (Training Camp Roster)
Where: Flyers SkateZone at Voorhees (601 Laurel Oak Rd, Voorhees, NJ); Wells Fargo Center and Lake Placid.
The Storyline: Goaltending questions regarding the Flyers? That’s un-possible! Steve Mason and Ray Emery both enter camp with a shot at grabbing the majority of the starts for the Flyers this season, trying to bring stability to a position that last featured an inconsistent cosmonaut.
The Subplot: The USS Hal Gill has docked in Philly; can the veteran defenseman crack the top six?
Dude Most Likely To Fight In Camp: Is there anyone that believes Zac Rinaldo won’t have at least one hot-headed moment this preseason?
Pittsburgh Penguins (Training Camp Roster)
Where: CONSOL Energy Center.
The Storyline: There’s an opening on the wing with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. Beau Bennett was given a look there at times last season and Neal recently put him over as a candidate. Jussi Jokinen, however, was mentioned by Coach Dan Bylsma as a player that has hung with stars like Mike Modano on the ice.
The Subplot: Chuck Kobasew? The Penguins made a late addition to their roster by brining in the veteran forward (and former Boston Bruin) on a PTO. He’s got playoff experience and the ability to create his own offense down the lineup.
Dude Most Likely To Fight In Camp: Not for nothing, but Bobby Farnham had 320 penalty minutes combined between the AHL and ECHL last season. You won’t like him when he’s angry.
Washington Capitals (Training Camp Roster)
Where: Kettler Capitals Iceplex (627 N Glebe Rd #800 Arlington, VA)
The Storyline: Adam Oates goes to camp. The Capitals coach and his team stumbled out of the gate last season, as the first-year head coach had to learn the roster (and his job) on the fly. Now, Oates has a full camp to work his systems and tweak the offense.
The Subplot: Mikhail Grabovski at No. 2. The Leafs castoff joined the Capitals late in the summer. The No. 2 center gig is his to lose. Who will end up on his wings? Martin Erat and Troy Brouwer to start, one assumes.
Dude Most Likely To Fight In Camp: If Joel Rechlicz is in the house, someone’s likely getting punched in the face.