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2013-14 NHL season: A fearless forecast

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2013-14 NHL season: A fearless forecast

If I owned a crystal ball, this would be about the time I’d pull it out.

I don’t, of course, but that doesn’t make it any less fun to try and predict the way the NHL standings will look six months from now.

Remember: Things work a little differently in the post-lockout era. The top three teams from each division will clinch a spot in the playoffs, as well as the two teams from each conference with the highest points total outside those six teams (doesn’t matter whether there’s one from each division or both come from the same division).

Let’s get down to business …

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division
Predicted winner: Boston Bruins
The Bruins, of course, lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in last season’s Stanley Cup Final. They also lost some talent this offseason (the likes of Tyler Seguin and Jaromir Jagr come to mind), but they’re still dangerous. It will be interesting to see how they fare in their new-look division, but right now, it seems like it’s theirs to lose.

The rest of the pack
2. Detroit Red Wings
3. Ottawa Senators
4. Toronto Maple Leafs
5. Montreal Canadiens
6. Tampa Bay Lightning
7. Buffalo Sabres
8. Florida Panthers

Metropolitan Division
Predicted winner: Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pens have proven they’re a tough team to beat -- during the regular season, at least. They’ve still got the depth they had in 2013, and if they can get over whatever has plagued them during the postseason over the past few seasons, they should be in for a long playoff run too. The caveat? Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who not only is currently lacking a solid backup option, but has, well, imploded in seasons past.

The rest of the pack
2. Washington Capitals
3. New York Rangers
4. New Jersey Devils
5. Philadelphia Flyers
6. New York Islanders
7. Carolina Hurricanes
8. Columbus Blue Jackets

(Note: I’m really, really sorry Flyers fans. If things were to play out like this … your Philadelphia Flyers would likely miss the postseason for the second consecutive year.)

Western Conference

Central Division

Predicted Winner: Chicago Blackhawks
Last year’s Stanley Cup winning team has still got it. They’re not going to repeat their crazy win streak that started their 2013 campaign, but they should also have little problem staying at the top of their division. Yes, the Hawks lost Ray Emery to the Flyers, but the bulk of the team’s key players remain. Also, Corey Crawford proved that he’s able to carry a bulk of the work -- including through the postseason.

The rest of the pack

2. St. Louis Blues.
3. Colorado Avalance
4. Dallas Stars
5. Minnesota Wild
6. Nashville Predators
7. Winnipeg Jets

Pacific Division
Predicted Winner: Los Angeles Kings
Two years after their ride from eighth seed to Stanley Cup champion, the Kings are still the team to beat on the West Coast. They’ve got the goalie, they’ve got the offense, they’ve got the necessary depth and they’ve definitely got the leadership. Remember, this was the team who sat Simon Gagne as a healthy scratch before trading him back to the Flyers.

The rest of the pack

2. San Jose Sharks
3. Anaheim Ducks
4. Vancouver Canucks
5. Phoenix Coyotes
6. Edmonton Oilers
7. Calgary Flames

Who’s in the Stanley Cup: Let’s have some fun here, and say it’s the St. Louis Blues vs. the Detroit Red Wings, with the Blues bringing home the hardware.

It’s a tough call -- part of me thinks it’s smarter to pick the Blackhawks to do it again instead of the Blues, but where’s the fun in that? I like Ken Hitchcock as a coach, and the Blues have been steadily improving over their last few seasons. They’ve got a pretty balanced lineup and solid goaltending, too. Plus, after living in St. Louis for a few years, I can tell you the city could use it.

What do you think? Am I way off? How do you see things playing out in each division? Let’s take the debate to the comments section.

Radko Gudas suspended 10 games for slash to Mathieu Perreault

Radko Gudas suspended 10 games for slash to Mathieu Perreault

Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas was suspended 10 games Sunday night by the NHL's Department of Player Safety for his slashing penalty to the back of the neck of Jets forward Mathieu Perreault.​

The incident occurred 9:50 in the first period of the Winnipeg game that saw Gudas receive a five-minute major and a 10-game misconduct as a result of the play.

Gudas has already served one game of that suspension, as he sat out Saturday’s home game against the Calgary Flames awaiting Sunday morning’s phone hearing.

Gudas will forfeit just over $408,000 as a result of his actions. The Flyers defenseman won’t be eligible to return to the lineup until Dec. 12 when the Flyers host the Toronto Maple Leafs.

This marks the longest suspension of Gudas’ career. He was slapped with a six-game suspension for his blow to Bruins forward Austin Czarnik in a 2016 preseason game. His first suspension in a Flyers sweater came back on Dec. 2, 2015, when he received three games for an illegal check to the head of Senators center Mika Zibanejad.

The suspension may ultimately help Gudas, who has appeared to be favoring his shoulder in recent games, limiting his ability to deliver his typical bone-jarring hits.

Flyers to host Penguins at Linc in 2019

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USA Today Images

Flyers to host Penguins at Linc in 2019

The Flyers will host the Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field on Feb. 23, 2019, as part of the ongoing Stadium Series, the NHL announced Sunday night.

The 2019 “Battle of Pennsylvania” is a renewal of the first outdoor game between the two divisional rivals that saw the Penguins beat the Flyers, 4-2, at Heinz Field on Feb. 25, 2017.

“On behalf of the Philadelphia Flyers, we are thrilled to host the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series at Lincoln Financial Field,” Flyers president Paul Holmgren said.

“Lincoln Financial Field will provide a perfect setting for these cross-state opponents and their passionate fan bases,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said.

For a Flyers franchise in search of its first win outdoors, the 2019 game will mark the fourth outdoor game in team history. The Flyers played the Boston Bruins in the 2010 Winter Classic, losing 2-1. In 2012, the Flyers hosted their very first Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park in a game that saw the New York Rangers win, 3-2.

With seven Stanley Cups between the two storied franchises, the Flyers and Penguins have produced some of the game’s greatest players, and details are still being worked out for an alumni event that will likely be held in Pittsburgh after a similar game was played at the Wells Fargo Center on Jan. 14, 2017, as part of their 50th anniversary celebration.

A Comcast Spectacor executive said other games, such as a Penn State collegiate game or an AHL event involving the Phantoms, could eventually be played prior to the Flyers-Penguins game, but those specifics still have to be worked out. 

“There is no doubt that the Penguins and Flyers will put on a great show for the passionate fans in Philadelphia, and those watching at home, adding to the history between these two teams,” Mathieu Schneider, NHLPA special assistant to the executive director, said.

On Saturday, the NHL announced the Chicago Blackhawks would host the Boston Bruins in the 2019 Winter Classic on Jan. 1, at Notre Dame Stadium.