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Metropolitan Division preview by Bucky Gleason: Pressure is on Pens in mix featuring old rivals

Pittsburgh Penguins

Offense: The Penguins led the league in scoring last season, thanks largely to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. James Neal last year was on pace for 40 goals over an 82-game season. Chris Kunitz had 22 goals and 52 points in 48 games. Pascal Dupuis also scored 20 in the short season.

Defense: Rob Scuderi returns to the team that gave him his first Stanley Cup. He won another in Los Angeles. He’ll help solidify a unit that already had veterans Kris Letang and Brooks Orpik. Scuderi could be the missing piece.

Between the lines: There was talk that Dan Bylsma was losing a hold on his players last season, leading to speculation he had been there too long. He’s a good coach, but he’ll need to find ways to keep his players’ attention.

Final score: The Penguins are capable of winning the Stanley Cup. The deciding factor will not be Crosby or Malkin but goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who struggled in the postseason last year.

New York Rangers

Offense: The Rangers had 130 goals last season, second-fewest among Eastern Conference playoff teams. It shouldn’t happen with Brad Richards and Rick Nash on the roster. They combined for only six power play goals. Derek Stepan led them in scoring with 44 points. Ryan Callahan is coming off surgery.

Defense: Marc Staal is hoping he’s finally over concussion problems. Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonough are capable of being one of the top tandems in the league. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist makes it easier for everyone.

Between the lines: Alain Vigneault arrives behind the bench with a different approach than fiery John Tortorella. Vigneault did a good job in Vancouver, but it wasn’t enough to win the Cup.

Final score: The Rangers faltered last season after they were the chic pick to win the Cup. Do not forget about this team. Is is capable of winning the whole thing.

Philadelphia Flyers

Offense: Vincent Lecavalier arrives with a reasonable $4.5 million cap hit after his contract was bought out by Tampa Bay. He gives the Flyers four very good centers with Claude Giroux, Braden Schenn and Sean Couturier. Giroux is coming off hand surgery after a golf club blew up in his hand during the offseason.

Defense: Mark Streit arrives from the Islanders, which will help on the power play but less in the defensive zone. Kimmo Timonen remains one of the better puck movers in the game, and Braydon Coburn is reliable. Add Luke Schenn, and it’s a solid unit.

Between the lines: As always, goaltending is the Flyers’ primary issue. Ray Emery returns after positing a 17-1 record and 1.94 GAA with a terrific Blackhawks team. Steve Mason doesn’t inspire confidence behind him.

Final score: The Flyers couldn’t climb out of an early funk last season. They’re more about talent than toughness these days, and they have enough to challenge for a division title.

Washington Capitals

Offense: Alex Ovechkin saved the season last year with a second-half surge that led to him winning the Hart Trophy. The Caps aren’t as dangerous as they were a few years ago. One addition who should help is Mikhail Grabovski, a former 20-goal, 50-point winger coming off a miserable season with Toronto.

Defense: Mike Green gives them production offensively, but John Carlson is their most complete player on the back end. Stoppers John Erskine and Karl Alzner will be matched against the opposition’s top line as much as possible. Goalie Braden Holtby is coming off a good year but needs to put together a full season.

Between the lines: Green has played less than 60 percent of Washington’s games over the previous three seasons, a major issue. He makes nearly 40 percent of the money dedicated to their top six defensemen. He needs to stay healthy.

Final score: The Caps for years had the luxury of playing in a weak division. Look for them in the middle of this one.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Offense: Columbus made things interesting last season, but only the bottom two teams in its conference – Nashville and Colorado – scored fewer goals. The Blue Jackets are hoping Marian Gaborik, acquired last season from the Rangers, will give them the skill they need up front. Nathan Horton arrives from Boston.

Defense: Jack Johnson leads a unit that’s mostly intact. The key to their defense last season was Sergei Bobrovsky, who was exiled from Philly and blossomed in Columbus with a 2.00 GAA and .932 save percentage en route to the Vezina Trophy. They’ll need the same magic again this year.

Between the lines: GM Jarko Kekalainen has been wheeling and dealing since he arrived in search of the right mix and chemistry. He needs to figure out how to turn a competitive team into a winner.

Final score: They need to prove that their 18-5-5 finish was no fluke. If they can build off last season, they can challenge for a playoff spot. They’re equally capable of finishing last in the division.

New York Islanders

Offense: John Tavares and Matt Moulson are true top-line forwards. Questions remain about whether the Isles can get enough production from elsewhere. Pierre-Marc Bouchard arrives from Minnesota, but he hasn’t scored 20 goals since 2006-07. Michael Grabner is capable of scoring 30 goals.

Defense: Streit’s departure to Philly was a significant loss for the Isles. Lubomir Visnovsky, a better all-around player, remains to lead them. Goalie Evgeni Nabokov is coming off a very good year. Now, they need another.

Between the lines: The team must play out two more seasons in the Nassau Coliseum before it relocates to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Isles had a worse record at home (10-11-3) last season than the road (14-6-4).

Final score: The Islanders lack the depth needed over an 82-game season. How much production comes from their second and third lines will determine a playoff spot.

New Jersey Devils

Offense: The Devils, tied for second-fewest goals in the NHL last season, were forced to replace two key players, Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson. They’re hoping Jaromir Jagr, Michael Ryder, Damien Brunner and Ryane Clowe can make up the difference. Good luck.

Defense: Five of their top six defensemen will be back. Big rookie Jon Merrill is expected to get a long look and could end up being a key player. If they don’t play sound defense, they’re in big trouble.

Between the lines: It will be interesting to see how they weave goalie Cory Schneider into the lineup after acquiring him from Vancouver. He had a 2.11 GAA and .929 save percentage with the Canucks, and now he joins Martin Brodeur.

Final score: The playoffs are possible with great goaltending and great defense. Good in either area is not good enough for this team to make the playoffs.

Carolina Hurricanes

Offense: The Hurricanes have two very good lines with brothers Eric and Jordan Staal in the middle. Alex Semin experienced a rebirth last year with 44 points in 44 games. Jeff Skinner can score, but that minus-21 looks ugly next to his 24 points. They account for $27 million in payroll.

Defense: Joni Pikanen being out for the season is a huge loss for a team already shaky along the blue line. Andrej Sekera may like his new surroundings, but he’s not the answer. A wild card is Mike Komisarek, who was brilliant under coach Kirk Muller in Montreal before faltering in Toronto.

Between the lines: The Hurricanes lean heavily on Eric Staal, who spent the summer trying to rehab a severely sprained knee suffered in the world championships. Cam Ward has failed to justify his big contract.

Final score: Carolina’s lack of depth in all areas is a major problem. Look for them to miss the playoffs for the seventh time in eight seasons since winning the Cup in 2006. – B.G.