NHL Season Preview: Boston Bruins

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While other sites are previewing "30 teams in 30 days," we decided to take advantage of the extra time off before the start of the season to bring you all 30 previews over the next three weeks. We're counting down in reverse order of finish from last season in each conference every weekday from now until October 3. Look for an Eastern Conference preview every morning and a Western Conference preview every afternoon. Click here to read them all.

Who's In: Michael Ryder, RW (UFA, Mon); Blake Wheeler, RW (UFA, Phx)

Who's Out: Alex Auld, G (UFA, Ott); Glen Metropolit, F (UFA, Phi); Glen Murray, RW (buyout)

What's Changed: Not at ton. For the first time in a while, the Bruins will have quite a bit of stability on the roster, with the most obvious change being that Ryder will slip into a scoring-line role on the right wing where Murray played last season.

A bigger boost to the offense, however, will come from a healthy Patrice Bergeron (pictured). He missed all but 10 games last season after taking a blindside hit from Philadelphia's Randy Jones, but is a solid 70-point man if he can make it back into the lineup full time. (Bergeron impressed already in preseason, racking up four points in the Bruins' first exhibition game against Montreal on Monday night.)

Elsewhere up front, there should be some solid progression from within for players like David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Vladimir Sobotka, who may not be household names but are ready for more minutes than they played as rookies last season.

Improvement from that trio, and a bounce back season from Ryder, will go a long way toward Boston scoring some more goals. The Bruins were 25th in the league last season in the category, and if there's any movement up the standings, it'll because they find the back of the net more often.

The blueline, too, will be remarkably unchanged - and that's a good thing. Expect captain Zdeno Chara and Dennis Wideman to get many of the tough assignemnts, with a solid cast that includes Aaron Ward, Mark Stuart, Andrew Alberts (who played just 35 games last season due to injury) and Andrew Ference filling in the gaps.

Also back from injury is netminder Manny Fernandez, who could battle Tim Thomas for the starter's role if he wobbles.

Who's On The Hook: Thomas is going to be a real key. A 34-year-old veteran of just 165 career games played, he had a career year last season en route to being named to the all-star team, and any backslide could prove troublesome.

The good news is that coach Claude Julien's stultifying defensive system isn't going anywhere, which makes life easy for the netminder, whoever it is. Fernandez has had a ton of time off, however, and will need to reprove himself should Thomas falter.

Also expected to be big-time contributers are Chara and Marc Savard, who together make up more than 20 per cent of the team's salary base and need to be on for the Bruins to win.

Where They'll Finish: They're an Eastern Conference bubble team again, and in that role, they'll have plenty of company. Boston's in a tough division, where outside of Toronto, every team is playoff worthy, and they play a defense-first style that relies heavily on players like Chara remaining healthy.

Anywhere from sixth to 10th in the conference seems reasonable, with an outside shot at a division title is Montreal slips up unexpectedly.

Blogs To Watch: Wicked Bruins Fan, Bruins Blog

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