<
>

Flyers, Coyotes ready to contend

Five non-playoff teams from last season that will jump into a playoff spot this season:

Philadelphia Flyers: Just getting healthy bodies back should be enough to put the perennial contenders back into the mix. Few teams were hit harder by injuries last season. Bringing back Ray Emery was a nice touch, too. Gone is the Ilya Bryzgalov distraction. Claude Giroux is going to light it up this season. I see the Flyers pushing the Penguins and the Rangers in the Metropolitan Division.

Phoenix Coyotes: After a half decade of ownership distraction and rumors of relocation, the ownership mess was finally settled in the desert in the offseason, bringing stability to an organization that desperately needed it. I see a rebound from goalie Mike Smith and overall a rebound from Dave Tippett's men, who just two years ago were in the Western Conference finals. They're playoff-bound this season.

Nashville Predators: GM David Poile added five bodies in the offseason, which added needed depth to the forward ranks. But bounce-back years from star goalie Pekka Rinne (who had offseason hip surgery) and star blueliner Shea Weber should be reason alone for the Preds to compete for a playoff spot. Did we mention Seth Jones?

Edmonton Oilers: OK, so this sounds like a broken record but finally, truly, really, the young Oilers will break through and get in after stockpiling all that talent over the past several years. Dallas Eakins was a brilliant hire as head coach.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Probably least confident in this pick, but I do think the Jackets have a shot at challenging for a playoff spot. For the Jackets to get in, Sergei Bobrovsky has to prove his Vezina year wasn't a fluke, and secondary scoring cannot be an issue.