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2011/2012 NHL Southeast Division Gambling + Handicapping Preview

NHL Betting – Southeast Division Preview

Hockey fans in Winnipeg are thrilled to have an NHL franchise back in town, but the euphoria that has taken over the city could be tempered by a couple of Eastern Conference contenders that will look to make sure that the Jets’ return flight isn’t a smooth one.

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The Southeast division was the weakest in the East a year ago, and with the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning chasing their playoff ambitions once again, it could be difficult for Winnipeg to get in.

On The Rise: Washington

It is hard to imagine that the team coming off a fourth consecutive division title would be the one on the rise in the Southeast division, but that is exactly the case for Washington. The Capitals finished with 107 points to lead the Eastern Conference last season, but once again fell short in the postseason with a four-game sweep at the hands of division-rival Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round. After years of gambling at one of the most important positions, Washington finally signed a top-tier goaltender in the offseason in Tomas Vokoun, one of the biggest steals of the offseason at just $1 million for one year.

The Capitals also added a couple of playmakers with playoff experience in Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer, as well as veterans Roman Hamrlik and Jeff Halpern from Montreal. With Alex Ovechkin aiming to rebound from a relatively poor year, and the considerable additions, this should be the year that Washington finally breaks through when it counts the most.

On The Decline: Florida Panthers

When an NHL general manager commits to spending a substantial amount of money in free agency, it usually means that he should be able to at least on paper improve his roster. But with the additions of Ed Jovanovski, Brian Campbell, Scottie Upshall, and Tomas Fleischmann, Florida Panthers’ GM Dale Tallon may not have improved his club as much as he could, especially considering the team lost arguably its most important player in Vokoun.

The Panthers will have another $20 million in cap room next year and will get another shot at making a big splash, but for now this team will be in a fight to stay out of the Southeast division basement. [ad-4437448]

Projected Winner: Washington Capitals

The Lightning took a major step forward last season in their first year under the guidance of GM Steve Yzerman, but they lost a couple of key pieces this offseason in Simon Gagne and playoff hero Sean Bergenheim, and will have a difficult time taking another step forward.

While the Jets and Carolina Hurricanes could contend for a playoff spot, the Panthers will have to wait at least another year, and that leaves Washington alone at the top. The Capitals are without peer in the Southeast and should have no problem clinching a fifth straight division title.

The real test comes in the postseason, where Alex Ovechkin and company could finally be ready to make a serious run at the Stanley Cup.

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