WITH THE temperature beginning to dip and frost building on lawns throughout the Delaware Valley, summer has ended and the fall is here. That can only mean one thing, right?
No, it's not another Phillies' October run or Eagles football. It's the drop of the puck and the return of hockey season. For you puckheads out there, here is a look at some of the storylines to keep track of this season:
1How will the Olympics impact the season? Will the star players be lagging after the regular season with the 2-week Olympic break in February? What impact will it have on injuries and production?
2 Will the Penguins repeat? The Red Wings in 1997 and '98 were the last team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups. Much of last year's Pittsburgh team is back, but the Flyers appear poised to exact revenge on Sidney Crosby and the Pens.
3 Can the Sharks get over the hump? San Jose had the best team in the regular season last year, but lost in the first round to the eighth-seeded Ducks. This team still has a lot of firepower up front and added sniper Dany Heatley from Ottawa.
4 Is there an NHL Premiere curse? The Red Wings and Blues open their regular-season schedules tomorrow and Saturday in Stockholm, Sweden. The Penguins started last year in Stockholm against Ottawa and won the Cup. But both Ottawa and Pittsburgh fired their coaches after slow starts. Jet lag can take its toll.
5 Are the Devils done? It's hard to believe that neither the Penguins nor the Flyers won the Atlantic Division last year. New Jersey edged both teams. But the Devils are younger and Marty Brodeur doesn't look the same.
6 Is this Toronto's comeback year? The problems in the big TO have been well-documented. But from the looks of it in the preseason, coach Ron Wilson is running a tight ship. They are physical and mean, especially with Mike Komisarek.
7 How many will Ovechkin score?
Alex Ovechkin has broken 50 goals in 3 of his first 4 years in the NHL. Each year, the Capitals have done better. He scored 65 in 2007-08. Can he break 70?
8 Who will be the surprise team in the East? The Florida Panthers were eliminated from playoff contention on the last day of the season in April. With the Rangers - and possibly another team - having a down year in the East, it may be Florida.
9 Will Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews bring Chicago to the promised land? These two kids carried the Hawks to the conference finals last season before bowing out to the Wings. They've bulked up and are ready for more.