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Changes in the NHL for 2011 and 2012

The National Hockey League (NHL Tickets) will start its 95th season shortly (specifically, on October 6, 2011).  Its final game will be played on April 7, 2012.  However, what will happen between now and the Stanley Cup Championships remains anyone’s guess.  It might help to know some of the pre-season details being released over the summer.  (Ah, the long hot summer…a cure for those pre-hockey season shivers!)

We already know that the Winnipeg Jets are back in business, as True North announced June 24, 2011 that Winnipeg is taking back ownerships of the Jets franchise name.  Soon, True North will debut a new logo and new colors for the team.

Elsewhere, the Philadelphia Flyers made off with four free agency signings, a major score over the rival PA team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, since Jaromir Jagr and Maxime Talbot signed with the Flyers.  The Flyers also managed to sign Andreas Lilja (of the Anaheim Ducks).

St. Louis Blues managed to keep Matt D’Agostini and sign Brian Elliott of Colorado Avalanche.  Meanwhile, the Columbus Blue Jackets signed James Wisniewski and the Boston Bruins, this year’s Stanley Cup championship team, released Michael Ryder.  Ryder went to the Dallas Stars, while Boston took home Benoit Pouliot.

What about the Vancouver Canucks, last year’s threat to Boston?  The Canucks signed four free agents as well, including Steve Pinizzotto, Andrew Ebbett, Marco Sturm and Mark Mancari.  The Canucks will be defending their Western conference championship and will start their season against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The question is, who has the advantage this early in the season (or pre-season, to be precise?)  While the Los Angeles Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning are looking promising, more experts have their eyes on the Washington Capitals, who have power players in Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin and Green.  The Bruins and the Canucks have momentum, but that doesn’t break the case for Flyers and the Penguins as favorites.

Nevertheless, the most promising team is the Chicago Blackhawks, who will recover from a disastrous season thanks to returning players back from injuries, as well as a powerful roster that includes goaltending master Corey Crawford.

What do you think?  Is Chicago the favorite or will Boston repeat their victory?

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