Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 08/15/12 at 03:41 PM ET
from John Kreiser of NHL.com,
Here’s a look at a player from each of the 15 teams in the Eastern Conference who will be under pressure to perform as soon as the puck drops:
Rick Nash, New York Rangers—The Rangers made a huge commitment to bring Nash to New York from Columbus. Nash has scored 30 or more goals in five consecutive seasons, but he also has seen his point total drop in each of the last three seasons. The Rangers are coming off a season in which they finished first in the East and made the conference finals, so anything short of a trip to the Stanley Cup Final likely will be regarded as a failure. To say Nash will have big expectations on his shoulders would be putting it mildly.
Jason Spezza, Ottawa—A decade after Ottawa made Spezza the No. 2 pick in the NHL draft, he finally became one of the NHL’s elite players, finishing fourth in the scoring race and leading the Senators to a surprising playoff berth. But on a team that made few changes following its leap forward, the pressure will be on Spezza to build on his best season in four years to keep the Senators among the top eight in the East.
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh—Few people will dispute that when he’s healthy, Crosby is the best player in hockey. The challenge for No. 87 as he enters his age-25 season is twofold: He has to show that he’s capable of playing a full season at his usual high level after missing all but 22 games since Jan. 5, 2011—and he and the Penguins will have to prove they can mesh again after last spring’s playoff debacle. A healthy Crosby integrated into the lineup could be the difference between a playoff team and a Cup winner.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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