Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Around the NHL - Western Conference Updates

With training camps well underway in all NHL cities, I wanted to take a look around the league and see how things are shaping up outside of Edmonton. Today the focus is on the Western Conference and tomorrow I will do the same for all teams in the Eastern Conference.. 

What can Teemu Selanne do for an encore? 30 G and 80 Pts at 40 years of age is pretty damn special! The big question mark will be Jonas Hiller and his bout with vertigo. The Ducks could have five former Oilers on opening night: Andrew Cogliano, J.F. Jacques, Kurtis Foster, Lubomir Visnovsky and Jeff Deslauriers.

All the news at Flames camp revolves around Captain Jarome Iginla and his wonky back. His back spasms kept him out of practice for a second straight day Monday. "I'm feeling better today," he said, noting there was a big improvement from how he felt on Sunday. "Talking with Brent and Jay, with the way our schedule works, make sure that it's 100 per cent so I don't just re-aggravate it.
Injuries to the two Patrick’s, Kane & Sharp, are the big stories in the Windy City. Sharp is recovering from an emergency appendectomy last Monday, while Kane is still on the mend from off season surgery on his left wrist. My dark horse player to possibly breakout in a big way this season is Michael Frolik. The guy has unreal skill and playing with the talent that is in Chicago should lead to career numbers. 

Big question for the Avs will be in goal and whether they have found their netminder of right now and the future, in Semyon Varlamov. Also, can Peter Mueller rebound after missing all of 2010-2011 with concussion like symptoms? Thru three days of camp, so far so good for the talented winger. 

Major off season acquisition, Jeff Carter, is already on the limp, as he was struck by a Rick Nash shot on the right foot. He won’t play in the Blue Jackets split squad games on Tuesday but they hope to have him back later in the week.

All the news with the Stars revolves around who will own team and when will it all go down. On the ice, it will be interesting to see how Dallas decides to utilize former Oiler Sheldon Souray. I am assuming as a third pairing D man and power play specialist but who knows. Don’t be surprised if Souray puts up some nice offensive numbers in the coming season.

Fabian Brunnstrom is at Wings camp on a tryout basis and it will be interesting to see how the over hyped Swede fairs. Monday afternoon was game time, of sorts, as Team Howe defeated Team Lindsay 6-3 in an in intra squad scrimmage. Johan Franzen lead the way with 2 goals for Team Howe.

Los Angeles
As the Drew Doughty saga continues, it can only get worse for the LA Kings. Unless this comes to an end quickly, this whole situation will be a black cloud over the organization, and more importantly the players, moving forward. The Kings feel they have a shot to compete for the Cup but not having your best player in the lineup, isn’t the best way to go about reaching those lofty goals. Also, it looks like there could be a battle brewing in between the pipes in Los Angeles. Jonathan Quick is the starter going in but it seems like the organization would like nothing more than Jonathan Bernier to push him for starts.

After the first few days of camp, it looks as though the Wild may seriously consider going with a top line of Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi with Mikko Koivu. While potentially a very dangerous line, what does that leave for the next three lines? My guess is not a whole lot. This could be a very busy season for Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding in goal for the Wild.

I have been a big believer in Pekke Rinne ever since his rookie season and that’s why his performance last season was not a big shock. He’s an elite goalie but now he has to prove he can do it again. I am very interested to see if Barry Trotz and his staff give youngster Colin Wilson a more prominent role in the coming season.
Kyle Turris and his rumored crazy contract demands of $4 million a season aside, the burning question in Phoenix has to be on their goaltending. Do they honestly think a tandem of Mike Smith and Jason Labarbera can get the job done? All I can say is…WOW!!! 

San Jose
Heading into camp, it’s the same question as every other year…is this the year this team gets to the finals? That won’t be answered until sometime in the spring but getting both Brent Burns and Martin Havlat from the Wild could pay off huge in the long run. 

St. Louis
The Blues could be the team that has a big bounce back season after a disappointing 2010-2011. T.J. Oshie showed up to camp in great shape and with a mission to prove to the organization he’s ready to help them take that next step. Patrick Berglund and Chris Stewart seemed to form instant chemistry upon Stewart’s arrival, which bodes well for the coming campaign. Who is the real Jaroslav Halak? The 2009-2010 edition or the one that took the Habs to the Conference Finals in 2009.  

Ryan Kesler seems to be out indefinitely, whatever that means at this time of year, but Mikael Samuelsson says he’s fully recovered from the sports hernia surgery he had during the middle of playoffs. Big questions: Who picks up for the minutes and production for the departed Christian Ehrhoff? Will the Vancouver faithful lose their minds, when the club moves backup goalie Cory Schneider? Poor Roberto Luongo thinks he has it tough now…just wait until Schneider is moved!

Eastern Conference 

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