|1. DETROIT RED WINGS With their fast start, incomparable consistency and good health, the Wings and Jimmy Howard are atop my list for W's in the NHL this year.|
|2. BUFFALO SABRES Continuity (Lindy Ruff & GM Darcy Reiger), new financial stability with owner Terry Pegula, and a team full of hockey sense make the Sabres my no. 2 pick. Add a healthy Ryan Miller with a capable backup in Jhonas Enroth -- as well as Derek Roy, newcomer Christian Ehrhoff and tons of hockey sense throughout this Sabres' lineup -- and you have an Eastern Conference contender. Only question: do they have enough sandpaper for the Stanley Cup Playoff grind?|
|3. PITTSBURGH PENGUINS As great as they are with Crosby and Malkin, they've proven they're very good without them as well. Credit Jack Adams winning coach Dan Bylsma, his coaching staff and the players. This team defends as hard as they attack and they play a very fast, uptempo brand of hockey with very talented 'bottom six' forwards and a skilled and tough defensive corps. Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson are one of the best 1-2 goalie combos in the NHL.|
|4. VANCOUVER CANUCKS Don't panic Canucks fans, Bobby Lou usually starts slow. The good news is Cory Schneider is riding shotgun. As I mentioned in the Canucks' home opener, expect Schneider to get his share of starts in the first 20-25 games of this season. The return of Ryan Kesler will be a big boost. He's a dominant three-zone player, second to only Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk, in my humble opinion. Chris Higgins looks as good as he did in Montreal where he started his career.|
|5. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS What a makeover! Bold, drastic, and I think for the better. Jagr's back in a big way, as are Claude Giroux, Danny Briere and many more offensive weapons. Excellent defencemen with a healthy Chris Pronger give the Flyers a big advantage against many teams. Ilya Bryzgalov's 78 W's the last two NHL seasons are real impressive. He could be the goalie the Flyers have craved since Ron Hextall.|
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