Central Division preview


Chicago Blackhawks

Additions: Marty Turco, G (Dallas); Viktor Stalberg, LW (Toronto); Jeff Taffe, C (Florida); John Scott, D (Minnesota); Ivan Vishnevskiy, D (Atlanta)

Subtractions: Antti Niemi, G (San Jose); Dustin Byfuglien, RW/D (Atlanta); Kris Versteeg, RW (Toronto); Andrew Ladd, LW (Atlanta); Ben Eager, LW (Atlanta); Adam Burish, RW/LW (Dallas); John Madden, C (Minnesota); Brent Sopel, D (Atlanta)

Depth Chart

First line: Troy Brouwer, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane
Second line: Tomas Kopecky, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa
Third line: Viktor Stalberg, Dave Bolland, Jack Skille
Fourth line: Bryan Bickell, Jeff Taffe, Jake Dowell

First pairing: Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook
Second pairing: Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brian Campbell
Third pairing: John Scott, Ivan Vishnevskiy

Starting goalie: Marty Turco
Backup: Corey Crawford

Just missed: Kyle Beach, LW; Shawn Lalonde, D; Brian Connelly, D

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

Feeling the pressure of an asphyxiating salary cap, the Blackhawks wasted little time unloading some key players shortly after winning the Stanley Cup. But even though the Hawks will miss Big Buff, Versteeg and others, the essential elements of the team's potent offense remain. In his fourth run through the NHL schedule, Patrick Kane will look to build on last season's 30-goal performance, while fellow three-year vet Jonathan Toews is aiming to eclipse the 80-point plateau for the first time is his young career. … With his contract safe and secure after a summer's worth of squabbling between the league and NHLPA, Marian Hossa is set to put last season's injuries behind him and get back to the business of notching 40 goals (plus 40 helpers). And Hossa's linemate, Patrick Sharp, is coming off a career-best 66-point performance. The Blackhawks are in fine shape despite the roster turnover.

Power Play

Hefty Troy Brouwer is the likeliest candidate to take over Byfuglien's former position on the top unit with Kane and Toews, while the second assembly should consist of Hossa, Sharp and former third-line center Dave Bolland. … Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell are once again the top two defensemen with the man advantage. Keith won the Norris Trophy last season and finished second in team scoring with 69 points. In his second full season, defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson will also get opportunities to skate on the power play.

Keep An Eye On

Making a fresh start with a true contender, no one is more excited than veteran goaltender Marty Turco. And can you blame him? With the talent out front, a career renaissance is not out of the question. At 35 years old, there's still sufficient gas in the tank. … Although he's far from a sure bet to earn a roster spot, Kyle Beach is making a good impression in training camp. If he can scratch his way onto the squad, the 6-foot-3, 230-pounder could get a shot at taking over Byfuglien's former position alongside Kane and Toews on the top line. Brouwer wouldn't be too pleased about that.

Detroit Red Wings

Additions: Mike Modano, C (Dallas); Jiri Hudler, LW (Russia); Ruslan Salei, D (Colorado)

Subtractions: Brett Lebda, D (Toronto)

Depth Chart

First line: Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom
Second line: Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula, Todd Bertuzzi
Third line: Jiri Hudler, Mike Modano, Daniel Cleary
Fourth line: Drew Miller, Justin Abdelkader, Patrick Eaves

First pairing: Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski
Second pairing: Niklas Kronwall, Brad Stuart
Third pairing: Jonathan Ericsson, Jakub Kindl

Starting goalie: Jimmy Howard
Backup: Chris Osgood

Just missed: Darren Helm, C; Kris Draper, C; Mattias Ritola, LW; Ruslan Salei, D

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

Aside from the addition of Mike Modano and the very welcome return of Jiri Hudler, these are essentially the same Red Wings from a season ago, except now they're healthy. No team was devastated by injuries as badly as Detroit's franchise was, and last season's individual numbers reflect as much. Fortunately, the past is the past and the likes of Johan Franzen, Tomas Holmstrom, Valtteri Filppula and Dan Cleary are fit and ready to go. As it stands, we can expect 90 points from Pavel Datsyuk, more than 80 from Henrik Zetterberg, nearly 70 from both Franzen and Hudler and 50 from Holmstrom. The team is hoping for 50 points from Modano, but that might be setting the bar a bit too high.

Power Play

It's difficult to find a weakness in this department when everyone is feeling fit and fine. We're more than a little familiar with the top five, which includes Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski on the point and forwards Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Holmstrom. Otherwise, a secondary 4-1 combination of defenseman Niklas Kronwall and forwards Modano, Franzen, Hudler, Cleary and Todd Bertuzzi can be nearly as dangerous. The only question concerns how many chances Jonathan Ericsson will get with the extra man. The defenseman has a rocket of a shot, but coach Mike Babcock has made it clear he wants Modano on the point alongside Kronwall. Ericsson's chances could be few and far between.

Keep An Eye On

If there's a weak link on this otherwise well-rounded and dangerous roster it could be Jimmy Howard. Sure, his first season as the Wings' No. 1 was a roaring success, but he wouldn't be the first young goaltender to fall on his face in his sophomore campaign (see: Columbus' Steve Mason). With all the support in front, Howard should survive well enough, but if he gets off to a wobbly start, be wary. … Todd Bertuzzi is capable of exceeding modest fantasy expectations, especially if he gets regular opportunities to skate on the power play. And you can always count on Bertuzzi to amass a respectable number of penalty minutes as a bonus.

Nashville Predators

Additions: Matthew Lombardi, C (Phoenix); Sergei Kostitsyn, RW (Montreal); Ryan Parent, D (Philadelphia); Aaron Johnson, D (Edmonton)

Subtractions: Jason Arnott, C (New Jersey); Dustin Boyd, C (Montreal); Dan Hamhuis, D (Vancouver); Dan Ellis, G (Tampa Bay)

Depth Chart

First line: Steve Sullivan, Matthew Lombardi, Patric Hornqvist
Second line: Martin Erat, David Legwand, J.P. Dumont
Third line: Sergei Kostitsyn, Marcel Goc, Joel Ward
Fourth line: Jerred Smithson, Colin Wilson, Jordin Tootoo

First pairing: Ryan Suter, Shea Weber
Second pairing: Francis Bouillon, Kevin Klein
Third pairing: Ryan Parent, Cody Franson

Starting goalie: Pekka Rinne
Backup: Mark Dekanich

Just missed: Matt Halischuk, RW; Aaron Johnson, D; Jon Blum, D

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

An average offense even in the best of times, the Predators lose some scoring pop with the departure of Jason Arnott. As it stands, no player is going to knock your fantasy socks off, but Patric Hornqvist has the most potential to visit the 60-point realm. His projected linemates, Steve Sullivan and Matthew Lombardi, along with Martin Erat and David Legwand are all good for about 50 points apiece. Ho hum.

Power Play

Shea Weber led the Preds in power-play points last season with 20, while his constant partner Ryan Suter lagged slightly behind with 17. As defensemen, those two are arguably the most valuable fantasy assets on the entire squad. When Weber and Suter aren't skating with the man advantage, 23-year-old Cody Franson will get the opportunity to contribute.

Keep An Eye On

The success of the Predators' season rests largely on goaltender Pekka Rinne's shoulders. If he struggles, so does the team as a whole. Former backup Dan Ellis is no longer around to help carry the load, and Rinne will be relied upon to start 70-plus games. Considering his career high is 58 appearances, that's quite a jump. No. 2 Mark Dekanich has yet to play a single minute in an NHL game.

St. Louis Blues

Additions: Jaroslav Halak, G (Montreal); Vladimir Sobotka, C (Boston)

Subtractions: Keith Tkachuk, LW (retired); Paul Kariya, LW/C (free agent) Chris Mason, G (Atlanta)

Depth Chart

First line: Andy McDonald, David Backes, Brad Boyes
Second line: David Perron, Patrik Berglund, T.J. Oshie
Third line: Alexander Steen, Jay McClement, B.J. Crombeen
Fourth line: Brad Winchester, Vladimir Sobotka, Matt D'Agostini

First pairing: Eric Brewer, Erik Johnson
Second pairing: Barret Jackman, Alex Pietrangelo
Third pairing: Carlo Colaiacovo, Roman Polak

Starting goalie: Jaroslav Halak
Backup: Ty Conklin

Just missed: Cam Janssen, RW; T.J. Hensick, C

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

Brad Boyes had a uncharacteristically mediocre campaign in '09-'10, totaling a pedestrian 42 points in 82 games. The Blues expect Boyes to return to his former productive self, and so should you. The remaining members of the team's top two scoring lines -- young lads, for the most part -- can be relied upon for up to 50 points each. … The offseason acquisition of netminder Jaroslav Halak will help keep plus/minus ratings respectable.

Power Play

Following two seasons in the NHL, T.J. Oshie is developing into quite the threat on special teams. Don't be too shocked if he breaks out with 20-plus power-play points this season. … On the blue line, quarterback Erik Johnson is your top defenseman in terms of production, by a long shot. When healthy, Carlo Colaiacovo will also see a substantial amount of ice time with the man advantage. Unfortunately, his tendency to get hurt is a fantasy drawback worth mentioning.

Keep An Eye On

Once he makes the team and stays with the big club, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has plenty of potential to do some damage. A monster in the OHL, Pietrangelo had 29 points in 25 games with the Barrie Colts last season. Big and able to quarterback the power play, this 20-year-old should be on your fantasy radar.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Additions: Ethan Moreau, LW (Edmonton); Ben Guite, C (Nashville)

Subtractions: None

Depth Chart

First line: Rick Nash, Antoine Vermette, R.J. Umberger
Second line: Kristian Huselius, Derick Brassard, Jakub Voracek
Third line: Nikita Filatov, Samuel Pahlsson, Derek Dorsett
Fourth line: Ethan Moreau, Tomas Kana, Chris Clark

First pairing: Jan Hejda, Rostislav Klesla
Second pairing: Kris Russell, Mike Commodore
Third pairing: Fedor Tyutin, Anton Stralman

Starting goalie: Steve Mason
Backup: Mathieu Garon

Just missed: Matt Calvert, LW; Jared Boll, RW; Ben Guite, C; Marc Methot, D; John Moore, D

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

Although the residents remain fundamentally the same, there's a fresh-faced sheriff in town. New head coach Scott Arniel is expected to bring a puck-possession-focused, high-tempo style to the Blue Jackets, and that bodes well for the team's top two lines. After seven seasons in the NHL, Rick Nash should finally be able to have that 80-point season, with goals accounting for about half of that number. In his second full term with the team, Antoine Vermette is in position to toy with the 70-point mark and Derick Brassard, who is just bursting with scoring talent, will rebound from his dismal 36-point performance. If Brassard (sleeper alert!) buys in to what Arniel is selling, the former sixth overall pick will enjoy a productive season. … Solid goaltending (more on that below) combined with a collection of stay-at-home defensemen assures both the goals-allowed and goals-scored numbers will stay relatively level throughout the team's 82-game schedule. You can assume any player with fantasy value will hover just slightly in positive territory.

Power Play

The trio of Nash, Huselius and Vermette is the essence of the top unit, while R.J. Umberger will either plant his hulking self in front of the opposition's net as a fourth forward or as a member of the second assembly. Either way, count on Umberger racking up oodles of points with the man advantage. … Power-play specialist Anton Stralman will pick up where he left off last season and run the show from the blue line in a 3-2 formation with partner Fedor Tyutin. Kris Russell, perhaps the team's most offensively talented defenseman, is capable of contributing with the extra skater as well.

Keep An Eye On

Which Steve Mason is going to show up this season, the Calder Trophy winner/Vezina finalist from 2008-09 or last season's floundering wreck? In all likelihood, it'll be a hybrid of the two. Although opposing forwards have figured out a few of Mason's weaknesses, the 22-year-old survived 2009-10, and that experience will help him move forward. If he has a solid start, expect Mason to build on that confidence and play fairly well. … Accused by some of being a spoiled brat, Nikita Filatov didn't get along with former coach Ken Hitchcock and fled for the KHL. Back in North America (visa issues pending), Filatov could blossom under Arniel's watch if the rookie coach gives him an opportunity to skate on the top two lines. … John Moore has a decent chance of making the squad, and as a speedster among a gaggle of defensemen that aren't so fleet-of-foot, the rookie defenseman will get a shot of contributing to the scoresheet.

Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com