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THN.com Blog: 30 things to remember for this season

The St. Louis Blues returned to the playoffs last season, but were ousted in the first round by Vancouver in four games. (Photo by Mark Buckner/NHLI via Getty Images)

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The St. Louis Blues returned to the playoffs last season, but were ousted in the first round by Vancouver in four games. (Photo by Mark Buckner/NHLI via Getty Images)

Two months into the off-season and there’s still almost two months to go before the NHL regular season begins.

Here are team-by-team storylines to keep in mind as you sun it up by the sea. Or wherever you may be.

Chris Pronger’s gone (to Philadelphia), but Saku Koivu joins Teemu Selanne for a reunion of the Finnish teammates who led the 2006 Olympics in scoring. And, hey, look it’s an Olympic year again in 2010.

Ilya Kovalchuk enters the final year of his contract before potential unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2010. It’s thrash-or-thrive time in Atlanta.

Pretty much status quo for the defending Eastern Conference regular season champions, save the depth additions of Steve Begin and Derek Morris.

Once again, it’s pretty much all riding on the health of sniper Thomas Vanek and goalie Ryan Miller. Second-half injuries to both stars last season cost the Sabres a playoff berth.

Dion Phaneuf, Jay Bouwmeester and Robyn Regehr. On the same team’s blueline. The Flames might not even need a goalie back there.

Rod Brind’Amour finally showed his age last season – and the Canes made it to the East final, anyway.

The Western Conference finalist added significant pieces in forwards Marian Hossa, Tomas Kopecky and John Madden – but it was still a summer to forget in the Windy City.

Say it ain’t so, Joe: The superlative Sakic has retired.

After Steve Mason’s big breakout and the Jackets finally making the playoffs, the challenge is to do it all over again.

Mike Modano, the highest-scoring American in NHL history, enters what is surely his final NHL campaign.

Perennial Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom turns 40 in April. Then again, Chris Chelios turns 107.

Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff are the main offensive cogs, but they need a lot more help from the likes of Dustin Penner, Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Patrick O’Sullivan.

Coach Peter DeBoer’s team doesn’t intimidate – but they might surprise.

The Kings have swiped another legendary Oiler forward. Only this time it wasn’t The Great One – it was The Grate One, Ryan Smyth.

Believe it or not, Marian Gaborik is gone. Wait, you say he hardly ever played for the Wild, anyway? Oh yeah.

Get ready for the Habs’ yearlong “Centennial (Plus One)” celebrations.

The Preds’ only free agent signing of note was, uh, Peter Olvecky. Oh well, at least they got good ol’ Vecky.

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Several Devils enjoyed career-best offensive seasons (Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Jamie Langenbrunner) or a return to form (Patrik Elias), but that might change with Jacques Lemaire replacing Brent Sutter behind the bench. Not that it matters; New Jersey will finish third-to-sixth in the East, like always.

It was a John Tavares pretty good John Tavares off-season for the John Tavares Islanders John Tavares.

Two-thirds of the forwards will be new faces, including oft-injured Gaborik and oft-injuring Donald Brashear.

The Dany Heatley Trade Watch continues…and continues…and continues…

You gotta admit, Pronger looks pretty menacing in the black-and-orange.

Finally, the Coyotes led the NHL in something. Unfortunately, it was depositions and he-said-she-said lawsuits.

They’ll win some, lose some…and see you in the final.

Unheralded bunch keeps pushing for return to respectability. And they’re very close, even if Paul Kariya and Keith Tkachuk are close to the end.

Remember that guy in Greek mythology whose eternal punishment was to roll a huge rock up a hill…only to have it roll all the way back down as he neared the summit, and then he had to start all over again? What was his name…? (Googling.…Googling…Googling) Uh, I think it was Sisyphus. Not that we’re calling the Sharks a bunch of Sisyphusses (Sisyphussi?), but San Jose probably knows that oh-so-close-oh-so-far-away feeling.

Don’t know what’s going on hockey-wise, but the Lightning is the most entertaining off-ice team ever. Unless you’re one of the owners.

We get it, Brian Burke. You like tough teams.

Might be alone on this one, but I was hoping Mats Sundin would come back for one more full season, like Scott Niedermayer did with the Ducks in 2008-09 after taking the first half of 2007-08 off. It worked for Scott, why not for Mats?

Added a couple of veteran forwards in Brendan Morrison and Mike Knuble, but it’s really all about what their defense and goaltending does.

Sam McCaig is The Hockey News' senior copy editor and a contributor to THN.com. His blog appears every weekend and his column, From The Point, appears regularly.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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