Commentary

Northeast Division preview

Updated: September 28, 2009, 4:20 PM ET
By Sean Allen | Special to ESPN.com

Boston Bruins

Additions: Derek Morris, D (Rangers); Steve Begin, C (Dallas); Dany Sabourin, G (Pittsburgh)

Subtractions: Manny Fernandez, G (free agent); Phil Kessel (Toronto); Stephane Yelle, C (Carolina); Shane Hnidy, D (Minnesota); Aaron Ward, D (Carolina); P.J. Axelsson, LW (Europe)

Depth Chart

First line: Milan Lucic, Marc Savard, Michael Ryder
Second line: Marco Sturm, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler
Third line: Mark Recchi, Patrice Bergeron, Chuck Kobasew
Fourth line: Shawn Thornton, Steve Begin, Byron Bitz

First pairing: Zdeno Chara, Dennis Wideman
Second pairing: Mark Stuart, Andrew Ference
Third pairing: Derek Morris, Matt Hunwick

Top goalie: Tim Thomas
Backup: Tuukka Rask

Just Missed: Vladimir Sobotka, C; Zach Hamill, C

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

Marc Savard
Elsa/Getty ImagesMarc Savard has 262 points in 238 games as a Bruin.

Coach Claude Julien's squad breeds plus/minus almost to the extent the Red Wings do, and the team's top offensive and defensive players need extra attention because of it. Several Bruins have a real chance at plus-20 or better, and a couple have a shot at plus-30. We don't advise focusing on plus/minus too much in an evaluation of a player's value because it can be fleeting, but with the Bruins, you can bank on it. … With the departure of Phil Kessel a healthy Marco Sturm moves into the top six, but whether he is on the first line or second line is debatable. With Marc Savard and David Krejci as the top centers though, it doesn't matter a whole lot whether he or Michael Ryder is on the top unit except when it comes to the extra value from the power play. Sturm does remain the biggest gamble of the top six due to his injury last season and the fact that he has peaked as an NHL player.

Power Play

Some third-line specialists for the Bruins do get power-play time, so Mark Recchi and Patrice Bergeron have some hidden value for fantasy owners. While they get extra time on the man advantage, Milan Lucic and Blake Wheeler don't see a whole lot of time there. Now, that is a situation that could change as Wheeler and Lucic get more responsibility. … The Bruins' power play was one of the better ones in the league last season, finishing fifth overall with a 23.6 percent conversion rate. Both Zdeno Chara (11) and Michael Ryder (10) finished with double digits for power-play tallies.

Keep An Eye On

Zach Hamill is trying to bring back his top-prospect status, and certainly had a preseason worth some attention. David Krejci has made an impressive recovery from offseason surgery and may be ready to start the season, but if he still needs some time Hamill will get a shot at making an impression in the NHL.

Click here for complete projections and profiles of Bruins players.

Buffalo Sabres

Additions: Mike Grier, RW (San Jose); Steve Montador, D (Boston); Cody McCormick, LW (Colorado)

Subtractions: Jaroslav Spacek, D (Montreal); Teppo Numminen, D (retired); Maxim Afinogenov, RW (Atlanta)

Depth Chart

First line: Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford
Second line: Daniel Paille, Tim Connolly, Jason Pominville
Third line: Clarke MacArthur, Jochen Hecht, Mike Grier
Fourth line: Cody McCormick, Paul Gaustad, Patrick Kaleta

First pairing: Henrik Tallinder, Toni Lydman
Second pairing: Andrej Sekera, Craig Rivet
Third pairing: Steve Montador, Nathan Paetsch

Top goalie: Ryan Miller
Backup: Patrick Lalime

Just Missed: Adam Mair, RW; Nathan Gerbe, LW; Tyler Myers, D; Marc-Andre Gragnani, D; Chris Butler, D

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

Thomas Vanek
Kevin Hoffman/US PresswireThomas Vanek has scored 43, 36 and 40 goals in the past three seasons.

This isn't the most intimidating team around, and the Sabres should find themselves outside of the playoff picture after doing very little to improve their club from last season. Coach Lindy Ruff will rely on his top six to do all of the scoring and the group should find fantasy value, though most of it will be marginal. Only Thomas Vanek, Tim Connolly, Derek Roy and Jason Pominville are sure things for fantasy owners and Connolly comes with a big question mark about his durability. With no real hope of any plus/minus value either, there is no big incentive to seek Sabres on draft day. … Because of the few stars in Buffalo the scoring lines matter more than for other teams. Vanek, Roy and Connolly are the players who can cause those skating with them to produce, so as long as all three are divided on two lines, three other players will become deep fantasy contributors. For now, the likely suspects are Drew Stafford, Jason Pominville and Daniel Paille.

Power Play

Keep An Eye On

If Tyler Myers breaks camp with Buffalo, fantasy owners will want to take note. The monster on the blue line is also swift and keen on offense. … As good as Ryan Miller can be, the team in front of him won't allow him to have the stats of a quality fantasy contributor. He can be a No. 2 goalie, but needs to be paired with another netminder who puts up strong ratios.

Click here for complete projections and profiles of Sabres players.

Montreal Canadiens

Additions: Scott Gomez, C (Rangers); Mike Cammalleri, LW (Calgary); Brian Gionta, RW (New Jersey); Jaroslav Spacek, D (Buffalo); Travis Moen, RW (San Jose); Hal Gill, D (Pittsburgh); Paul Mara, D (Rangers); Curtis Sanford, G (Vancouver)

Subtractions: Saku Koivu, C (Anaheim); Alexei Kovalev, RW (Ottawa); Alex Tanguay, RW (Tampa Bay); Chris Higgins, RW (Rangers); Mike Komisarek, D (Toronto); Robert Lang, C (free agent); Tom Kostopoulos, C (Carolina)

Depth Chart

First line: Mike Cammalleri, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta
Second line: Andrei Kostitsyn, Tomas Plekanec, Sergei Kostitsyn
Third line: Max Pacioretty, Maxim Lapierre, Guillaume Latendresse
Fourth line: Travis Moen, Glen Metropolit, Matt D'Agostini

First pairing: Andrei Markov, Roman Hamrlik
Second pairing: Jaroslav Spacek, Josh Gorges
Third pairing: Hal Gill, Paul Mara

Top goalie: Carey Price
Backup: Jaroslav Halak

Just Missed: Kyle Chipchura, C; Georges Laraque, RW; Ryan O'Byrne, D

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

Mike Cammalleri
Phillip MacCallum/Getty ImagesMike Cammalleri has scored double-digit power-play goals in four consecutive seasons.

So many changes in Montreal, not the least of which is new head coach Jacques Martin and a brand-new first line. Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta will look to rekindle their chemistry from years in New Jersey and Mike Cammalleri brings his scoring touch to the trio. … Martin's teams use a puck possession game that usually results in positive plus/minus results. Even on low-scoring Florida teams coached by Martin, there were several gems to be found in the plus/minus department and this squad of Canadiens is more talented top to bottom. … Both Kostitsyn brothers -- Andrei and Sergei -- had forgettable 2008-09s and need to step up this season to show they can still be fantasy contributors. You can let them put in the work on the waiver wire though.

Power Play

The last Jacques Martin-coached power play in Florida finished sixth in the NHL for the 2007-08 season, so expect a quality unit for the Habs. Andrei Markov will remain on the blue line, and the ice time on the man advantage is likely to be divided up among the top forwards. If there are some unexpected specialists on the power play, Martin is yet to reveal them.

Keep An Eye On

Max Pacioretty is ready to start moving up the Habs' depth chart. Tomas Plekanec will have to be checking his rearview on occasion, and if he performs as he did last season, it may not be long before Pacioretty is a waiver-wire find. … Guillaume Latendresse is the other Canadiens forward looking to move into a more offensive role. Latendresse has been biding his time as a checker under coach Guy Carbonneau, but with a new regime in town he'll be looking to earn his way up.

Click here for complete projections and profiles of Canadiens players.

Ottawa Senators

Additions: Alexei Kovalev, RW (Montreal); Milan Michalek, LW (San Jose); Jonathan Cheechoo, RW (San Jose)

Subtractions: Dany Heatley, RW (San Jose); Mike Comrie, C (Edmonton); Alex Auld, D (Dallas); Jason Smith, D (retired)

Depth Chart

First line: Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson
Second line: Mike Fisher, Peter Regin, Alexei Kovalev
Third line: Ryan Shannon, Nick Foligno, Jonathan Cheechoo
Fourth line: Jarkko Ruutu, Chris Kelly, Chris Neil

First pairing: Filip Kuba, Chris Campoli
Second pairing: Chris Phillips, Anton Volchenkov
Third pairing: Brian Lee, Alexandre Picard

Top goalie: Pascal Leclaire
Backup: Brian Elliott

Just Missed: Christoph Schubert, LW; Shean Donovan, RW; Erik Karlsson, D

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

Jason Spezza
Andre Ringuette/NHLI/Getty ImagesJason Spezza will be without triggerman Dany Heatley for the first time since before the lockout of 2004-05.

With a questionable defense still, the Senators will have to prove they are not damaging to a fantasy owner's plus/minus before we trust them. Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson are still likely to take a run at 90 points, even without Dany Heatley around, while newcomers Alexei Kovalev and Milan Michalek are each good for 65 points at least. Michalek has more to gain as the likely winger for Spezza and Alfredsson. … The sleeper on the second line will be Peter Regin. The Danish center has upped his value over the past few seasons in the AHL and in the Swedish Elite League after being drafted way back in 2004. The Sens look to be moving Mike Fisher to the wing to allow Regin to center him and Kovalev. Given his linemates, Regin will be worth a shot in deeper leagues. … Coach Cory Clouston certainly made fantasy owners feel better about the Sens after the Craig Hartsburg disaster to begin last season, and one of the keys to Clouston's success at the end of last season was putting trust into the goalie he coached in the AHL: Brian Elliott. But Elliott won't begin the season as the Senators' goaltender with a healthy (for now) Pascal Leclaire taking over. It is the smart move for both the NHL club and for fantasy owners as Leclaire becomes a solid gamble given his ability to dominate when healthy, and Elliott is a must-handcuff with the potential to start as soon as Leclaire's wrist breaks (or whatever happens this time).

Power Play

Sans Heatley, the Sens will likely go big on the power play by combining the Jason Spezza-Daniel Alfredsson-Milan Michalek line with Alexei Kovalev by having Alfie play the point. Alongside Alfredsson on the blue line, Filip Kuba will be the quarterback after doing a more than adequate job last season. … The coaching change that brought in Clouston fired up the Senators' power play; the team finished 10th overall last season with a 19.5 percent conversion rate, but under Clouston in the final months, the team clicked along at a pace that would have had the Senators fifth overall if maintained over the whole season.

Keep An Eye On

Jonathan Cheechoo will have to work his way back to respectability in Ottawa. While he has been a disaster over the past few seasons after his explosion in 2005-06, he has also been dealing with a couple of sports hernia injuries. Cheechoo says he is healthy and ready to rock, but he'll start on the third line and have to earn his way up. That's exactly how it should happen in fantasy leagues, where he should start on the waiver wire and earn his way onto rosters.

Click here for complete projections and profiles of Senators players.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Additions: Jonas Gustavsson, G (Europe); Phil Kessel, RW (Boston); Mike Komisarek, D (Montreal); Francois Beauchemin, D (Anaheim); Garnet Exelby, D (Atlanta); Colton Orr, RW (Rangers)

Subtractions: Pavel Kubina, D (Atlanta)

Depth Chart

First line: Jason Blake, Mikhail Grabovski, Alexei Ponikarovsky
Second line: Niklas Hagman, Matt Stajan, Lee Stempniak
Third line: Nikolai Kulemin, John Mitchell, Jamal Mayers
Fourth line: Jiri Tlusty, Wayne Primeau, Colton Orr

First pairing: Mike Komisarek, Tomas Kaberle
Second pairing: Francois Beauchemin, Garnet Exelby
Third pairing: Luke Schenn, Ian White

Top goalie: Vesa Toskala
Backup: Jonas Gustavsson

Just Missed: Phil Kessel, RW (out until December); Nazem Kadri, C; Jeff Finger, D; Mike Van Ryan, D; Joey MacDonald, G; Viktor Stalberg, LW; Tyler Bozak, C

The Lineup and Plus/Minus Effect

Jason Blake
Tom Szczerbowski/US PresswireJason Blake led the Maples Leafs in goals (25) and points (63) last season.

Ugh. No, this Leafs lineup is far from pretty for fantasy owners with only Jason Blake, Tomas Kaberle and Alexei Ponikarovsky likely to be of any interest to fantasy teams interested in winning their league. And even those three players come with concerns over plus/minus. Coach Ron Wilson does have a stalwart defense core to work with and should be able to get the offense to play better than the sum of its parts, but fantasy owners should simply turn a blind eye to the Leafs. … Don't forget that the new savior of Toronto, Phil Kessel, might not suit up for a game until 2010 as he recovers from surgery. He definitely has talent to spread around, but that's not something to plan for in your draft. Kessel is a late-round bench pick if you have an injured reserve spot in your league.

Power Play

No returning Maple Leaf had even 20 power-play points last season and Niklas Hagman and Mikhail Grabovski top the list with their measly six power-play goals. … While the mix of forwards on the power play may be quite fluid, Tomas Kaberle is assured of being on the blue line for most of the Leafs' man advantages. He needs a big bounce-back season to be a quality fantasy defenseman, and he is certainly equipped to have it. Just watch Kaberle's plus/minus as it will be the difference between a No. 2 defenseman and a borderline-relevant blueliner.

Keep An Eye On

If Jonas Gustavsson can make the transition to the North American game, he shouldn't need more than a few weeks to unseat Vesa Toskala as the starter. Just remember that, as an import from Sweden, Gustavsson could go the Henrik Lundqvist or the Fredrik Norrena route, so don't get your hopes up too much. … If the Leafs make the smart move and go with a big youth movement, Viktor Stalberg, Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri will need to be monitored closely for their contributions. Stalberg was the team's best player in the preseason and he and Bozak worked well together. Kadri is least likely to make the team, but is Toronto's top prospect.

Click here for complete projections and profiles of Maple Leafs players.

Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He was named the 2008 Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Hockey Writer of the Year award winner. You can e-mail him here

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Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He was the 2008 and 2009 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hockey Writer of the Year. You can tweet him @seanard.