Professor Tim handicaps the Eastern Conference

Game night, finally! Here’s a clip from today’s Gazette centerpiece handicapping the Eastern Conference:

1. Montreal
The chic pick, for a reason. If Carey Price is as advertised, this is the best in the East.
2. Philadelphia
Watch Briere and Gagne work wonders, if healthy. A young, more mobile D will help.
3. Washington
Only here because they win a weak division. Again. Still not great past Ovechkin.
4. Pittsburgh
Still not sold. If Fleury is great, they move up, but that’s a big if.
5. N.Y. Rangers
Lots of cash equals another middle of the pack finish. Loss of Avery actually hurts.
6. Buffalo
We’re not just homers. Too many things went wrong last year that won’t this year.
7. Boston
Good, but who’s in net? Addition of Ryder makes them softer, but more fun to watch.
8. Carolina
Cam Ward is the key. This team will score, can it keep the puck out of the nets?
9. Ottawa
Crazy talk, right? The best line has little support elsewhere. Gerber isn’t the answer.
10. New Jersey
Elias, Gionta, and Langenbrunner are on the wrong side of their prime.
11. Toronto
Hmmm … beating the Wings on opening night is a good start. Can they keep it up?
12. Tampa Bay
Barry Melrose goes from being the U.S. face of hockey to Steven Stamkos’ baby-sitter
13. N.Y. Islanders
Nolan’s out, but the Isles are still crummy. Can DiPietro stay healthy?
14. Atlanta
You’ve got to feel for Kovulchuk. Bad doesn’t begin to describe this lineup.
15. Florida
Free points. Kreps went from a second-line center in Rochester to one of Florida’s finest.


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