Five questions in the Eastern Conference:
1. Can Sidney Crosby stay healthy and carry the Pittsburgh Penguins deep into the playoffs? The Penguins won two rounds last spring--one more than they'd won in the previous three seasons since their 2009 Stanley Cup championship--but they were swept by Boston in the East final. Adding defenseman Rob Scuderi makes them much better. Crosby is healthy after concussion-related woes.
2. Will goaltender Tim Thomas regain his Stanley Cup-winning form after taking a year off? The former Boston Bruins standout said being away left him "rejuvenated and refreshed" when he signed a tryout contract with the Florida Panthers. Even if he's in top form the Panthers are still a playoff longshot.
3. How much will Detroit benefit from moving from the West to the East? Probably a lot, thanks to less travel and more games in or near their time zone. Their fans will be grateful, too, because they won't have to stay up late nearly as often to watch West Coast games.
4. After winning his third MVP award, will Alexander Ovechkin lead the Capitals on a Cup run? He went on a scoring spree late in the season, but the Caps didn't last long in the playoffs. A full season under Coach Adam Oates, who stuck with his decision to move Ovechkin from the left side to the right despite a lack of immediate success, could be good for the team.
5. Are the Ottawa Senators capable of making it to the Stanley Cup final? No Canadian team has won since Montreal in 1993, but the on-the-rise Senators have sparked some giddy predictions north of the border. Goalie Craig Anderson had great stats in an injury-shortened season, and they added perennial 30-goal-scorer Bobby Ryan last summer. They might justify the hype.
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