With very few changes to the team's lineup, it will be interesting to see how the Ottawa Senators follow up their overachieving season that saw them make the post-season under first-year head coach Paul MacLean.
Nominated for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year after revitalizing the floundering club, MacLean says his team is ready once the season gets underway.
"We're ready to go," he said Tuesday from a Gloucester Rangers major atom 'A' team practice where he was a guest coach. "Our coaching staff has been ready since Sept. 15 and we feel once we get the light to go we're going to be ready."
Maclean will have to deal without having one of his top four defencemen for the remainder of the season, as Jared Cowen is out after suffering a hip injury while playing for the Senators' American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton.
"It's a blow to our team," said MacLean. "He played 82 games, logged in excess of 20 minutes and was big on our penalty kill. Any time you have injuries it's a big blow to your team, and to him and his career as well. But at the same time it's somebody else's opportunity. We try to look at it in a positive way for the team and somebody else is going to get a chance to play."
With Cowen out and the departures of Filip Kuba, Matt Carkner and Matt Gilroy, the blueline will certainly have a different look when hockey gets back on the ice.
Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson will be in need of a new partner and Marc Methot - acquired in a trade from Columbus this past summer - is expected to fill that role.
Karlsson highlighted an exodus of nearly half of the Senators players to Europe during the lockout - a group that also includes Jason Spezza. The NHL's fourth leading scorer last season, Spezza is currently a point-per-game player in the Swiss League.
Up front, the search for a right winger to play alongside Spezza continues to be an annual one with plenty of players auditioning for that spot. After two injury-filled seasons in Minnesota, 25-year-old Guillaume Latendresse is looking to get his career back on track and with depth down the middle, rookie Mika Zibanejad – who has struggled to adapt to the North American game while playing in the AHL during the lockout - could find himself moved to the wing.
And then there is captain Daniel Alfredsson, who is back for the 17th and likely final season. Alfredsson, who turned 40 on December 11, is proving he is still a productive force, finishing third on the team with 27 goals last season.
With files from TSN Reporter Brent Wallace.