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NHL: As new season begins, can 'Hawks repeat?

Published September 30, 2013 6:31 pm

NHL • Another realignment, and a possible new rule also on deck
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Enjoy the Stanley Cup-banner raising ceremony for as long as possible, Chicago.

Once the puck drops to usher in the new NHL season in Chicago, Montreal and Edmonton on Tuesday, recent history suggests someone other than the Blackhawks will be hoisting the Cup in June. The 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings stand as the league's last franchise to repeat as champions.

"You've got players moving all the time now. The competition level is good or better than ever before," TV analyst and former coach Pierre McGuire said. "And the ultimate thing is we haven't had NHL expansion in almost 12 or 14 years now.

"And because of that, the talent bucket is full."

Despite that, McGuire thinks Chicago has as good a chance as any to repeat fresh off a lockout-shortened season.

"I believe we can start to use the 'D' word with Chicago's dynasty," he said of a franchise that's won two of the past four titles.

Former player-turned-broadcaster Eddie Olczyk, however, noted several obstacles facing Chicago.

Namely? The Olympics. Chicago could have as many as 14 players competing at the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

"When you throw in the Olympic break," Olczyk said. "It's going to be very taxing."

One step at a time, said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, whose team opens against Washington.

"We want to put ourselves, come playoff time, to be that team that can compete for it again," Toews said. "There's a lot of things that play into that. That's our goal for now."

At last, there is a new look to the league. Realignment means there are just four divisions now, two in both the Eastern and Western Conference.

The names of the divisions, though, will take some getting used to. The Atlantic, Pacific and Central all seem fine. The Metropolitan — which features Carolina, Washington, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Columbus, New Jersey and both the New York Islanders and Rangers — will take some getting used to.

There also will be a new rule.

The league used the preseason to test a hybrid icing rule, in which linesmen can whistle the play dead by determining which teams' player reaches the far-end faceoff dot. The NHLPA on Monday gave the go-ahead for the rule change. —

NHL openers

Tuesday

Toronto at Montreal, 5 p.m.

Washington at Chicago, 6 p.m.

Winnipeg at Edmonton, 8 p.m.

Wednesday

Toronto at Philadelphia, 5:30 p.m.

Buffalo at Detroit, 6 p.m.

Anaheim at Colorado, 9:30 p.m.

Thursday

Tampa Bay at Boston, 5 p.m.

New Jersey at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.

Calgary at Washington, 5 p.m.

Nashville at St. Louis, 6 p.m.

Los Angeles at Minnesota, 6 p.m.

Florida at Dallas, 6:30 p.m.

N.Y. Rangers at Phoenix, 8 p.m.