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Old 08-16-2001, 11:27 PM   #1
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Default PREVIEW: Southeast Division

We have 7 weeks until the NHL's regular season, so every week, I will start a new thread where we can preview each of the NHL's 6 divisions, with the 7th week of discussion belonging to our final predictions.

This thread concerns the Eastern Conference's Southeast Division that features the Atlanta Thrashers, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Washington Capitals.

In all of hockey, this is probably the weakest division. Easily, Washington should take over this division and gaurantee themselves home ice in the playoffs. It will be interesting to see, however, what on-ice improvements Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Florida make after making several impact moves in the offseason (well, Tampa and Florida did... Carolina -- not as much).

Of these teams, I think Tampa will finish second in the division, followed by Carolina, Florida, and, finally, Atlanta. Atlanta has a good core of talent headed by their goalie, Damian Rhodes, as well as a great top line of draft picks from the previous three seasons of Ilya Kovalchuk (2001 1st pick), Patrik Stefan (1999 1st pick), and Dany Heatley (2000 2nd pick).

The reason I think Tampa will see the most improvement is largely due to the development of their two top forwards -- Brad Richards and Vincent Lecavalier -- as well as one of the NHL's finest goaltenders (should he return to his old form) in Nikolia Khabibulin.
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