METROPOLITAN DIVISION STORY LINES
1. Sergei Bobrovsky won the first major individual trophy in Blue Jackets history when he captured the Vezina last season. Can Bobrovsky help guide the Eastern Conference newcomers back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009?
2. Is this the year Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin can both stay healthy? Crosby missed 12 games last year, Malkin sat out 17. The good news is that Crosby, who still finished fourth in league scoring, has been concussion-free for 18 months.
3. What will the Rangers look like under new coach Alain Vigneault? All of the preseason chatter is about a fresh start for everyone in New York under a decidedly less defensive-oriented coach. Can that get Brad Richards and Rick Nash back on track?
4. Alex Ovechkin closed with 23 goals in 23 games for Washington, which finished with a 17-4-2 record. So, are the Capitals more like that 17-4-2 team or the one that started the season 10-14-1?
5. Many predict the Devils to be the worst team in the division. New goaltender Cory Schneider looked impressive in the preseason. How much will New Jersey miss the retired Ilya Kovalchuk?
--Despite mixed review, players approved the use of "hybrid" icing and it will no longer be an automatic whistle when the defending player touches the puck. The linesman will make a judgment call near the faceoff circle to either allow play to continue to blow it dead in an effort to avoid catastrophic injuries.
--Net frames are shallower by a total of about 14 inches, which is designed to increase space behind the net for playmaking opportunities.
--Goaltenders had the maximum height of their leg pads shrunk by 10 percent, which will result in less five-hole coverage by an average of two-three inches.
--Players must keep their helmets on while fighting. The NHL already closed a loophole by penalizing players who simultaneously removed each other's helmets.
--Players will be penalized for tucking in their jerseys, which is a violation of the new uniform guideline. Wayne Gretzky and Jaromir Jagr are appalled.
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