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Eight story lines as NHL training camps open

10:03 PM, Sep 10, 2013   |    comments
Mar 28, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues left wing Alexander Steen (20) controls the puck away from Los Angeles Kings center Jeff Carter (77) during the third period at the Scottrade Center. The Kings defeated the Blues 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
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NHL players report to training camp Wednesday and hit the ice Thursday. Eight things to watch as teams sort through their rosters:

1. Veterans accepting tryout contracts: With the salary cap lowered to $64.3 million, several veteran unrestricted free agents have been caught without a contract. Defenseman Ryan Whitney already has accepted a professional tryout (PTO) agreement from the St. Louis Blues and goalie Mathieu Garon is out as the Los Angeles Kings' camp. Players consider PTOs because they allow them to showcase their abilities to many teams during the preseason schedule. Ron Hainsey and Brenden Morrow are among the many veterans without deals.

2. Mitchell is back: Defenseman Willie Mitchell, a key veteran on the Kings' 2011-12 championship team, is expected to be ready to play when camp opens. He missed all of last season with a knee injury. He will be one of nine defensemen with NHL experience at the Kings training camp.

3. Hybrid icing to be tested: The NHL will test a potential new icing rule during preseason games. If the defending player reaches the faceoff dot before the offensive player on an icing play, the whistle will be blown. If it appears the attacking player can reach the puck first, the referee will allow the race to the puck to continue. The rule could be adopted in the regular season if testing goes well. The hope is this will prevent serious injuries, as happened to Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen (broken heel) last season when he crashed into the boards.

4. Goalie competition in Toronto: Although the Toronto Maple Leafs traded for Jonathan Bernier in the offseason, coach Randy Carlyle is expected to give both James Reimer and Bernier the opportunity to prove who should be the starter.

5. New sheriff in Calgary: Brian Burke starts his tenure as the Calgary Flames' president of hockey operations. Burke said he wouldn't be as involved in the team's day-to-day operations as he was with previous teams. Jay Feaster remains the team's general manager. But feel free to start a pool to guess the date when the Flames add their first player known for his "truculence."

6. No deal: Restricted free agents Derek Stepan (New York Rangers), Alex Pietrangelo (Blues), Cody Hodgson (Buffalo Sabres), Jared Cowen (Ottawa Senators) and Cody Franson (Maple Leafs) have yet to reach deals that would bring them to camp. Toronto's Nazem Kadri reached a two-year contract on the eve of camp. TSN reports that the deal averages $2.9 million a year.

7. Alfredsson wears "Winged Wheel": Daniel Alfredsson, a member of the Senators since 1995, will play for another NHL team for the first time. If Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock wants to keep Justin Abdelkader on the top line with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, Aldredsson presumably would play on the No. 2 line with newcomer Stephen Weiss and Johan Franzen. Babcock always has the option of putting together a Hall of Fame line featuring Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Alfredsson.

8. Promotions coming: The Tampa Bay Lightning, Columbus Blue Jackets, Flames, Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers, Senators and Sabres have no captains. The Blue Jackets had no permanent captain last season, and the Sabres (Jason Pominville), Stars (Morrow) and Flames (Jarome Iginla) traded their captains during the season. Tampa Bay bought out Vincent Lecavalier, who moved on to the Philadelphia Flyers. None of those teams seems in a hurry to make a decision.

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