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Ten candidates for a bounce-back season

Thursday, 11.08.2011 / 11:41 AM / Feature
By John Kreiser  - NHL.com Columnist
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Ten candidates for a bounce-back season
NHL.com looks at 10 candidates for bounce-back seasons in 2011-12.
Disappointing seasons happen to almost everyone. Sometimes they're because of injuries, sometimes they're just bad luck, and other times they are a combination of circumstances.

Here are 10 players who, for a variety of reasons, didn't have their best seasons in 2010-11 but are good candidates to bounce back in the upcoming campaign:

Marian Gaborik, Rangers ­-- Gaborik dropped from 42 goals in his first season in the Big Apple to 22 -- and even that wasn't as good as it seemed because 10 came in three games against non-playoff teams. Gaborik is healthy after missing 20 games last season, and the Rangers have brought in playmaker Brad Richards to get him the puck. Barring injuries, there's no reason the two-time 42-goal scorer shouldn't have another big year.

Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals -- Part of Alex Ovechkin's drop from superstar to mere mortal can be laid at the skates of Backstrom, his center, who had the worst season of his four-year career while missing five games due to a broken thumb -- the first injury ever to keep him out of the lineup. Backstrom dropped from 33 goals to 18 and from 101 points to a career-low 65 in the first season of a 10-year deal -- a major reason why Washington struggled to score. The Caps in general and Ovechkin in particular need him to play the way he did in his first three NHL seasons.

Scott Gomez, Canadiens -- Gomez is coming off the worst season of his career, a 38-point, minus-15 debacle that left many people in Montreal wondering how much he has left at age 31. It was a huge dropoff for a player who had averaged 66 points (and never had less than 58) in his previous five seasons. Gomez has to prove he's still a top-six forward -- and that he's worth the big-money deal the Canadiens inherited when they acquired him from the Rangers two years ago.

Steve Sullivan, Penguins -- If ever there were a player who could bounce back with a big season at age 37, it's Sullivan, who’s healthy again and going from the offensively-challenged Predators to Pittsburgh -- where he figures to wind up on a line with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Injuries limited Sullivan to 44 games last season, and he finished with just 10 goals and 22 points. If he's healthy, there's no reason he shouldn't have at least 25 goals and 50 points with the Penguins.

Nik Antropov
Centre, 2010-11 SEASON STATS
GOALS: 16 | ASST: 25 | PTS: 41
SOG: 105 | +/-: -17
Nik Antropov, Jets -- Antropov played in 76 games in both 2009-10 and '10-11, but that's where the similarities between the two seasons end. He had 24 goals and a career-best 67 points for Atlanta in 2009-10, but dropped to just 16 and 41 last season while also plummeting from a plus-13 rating to minus-17. The relocated Jets hope a new home and some offseason moves will help the 31-year-old -- the oldest non-goaltender on the team -- to rediscover his scoring touch.

Duncan Keith, Blackhawks -- Keith's 45-point showing in 2010-11 would have been acceptable for most defensemen, but for the reigning Norris Trophy winner, it was a major comedown. The dropoff in Keith's play from the previous season mirrored the Hawks' plunge from Stanley Cup champs to a team that barely made the playoffs. Keith looked like the best defenseman in hockey only on rare occasions, and the Hawks need him to revert to his '09-10 form if they hope to return to being Cup contenders.

Sergei Gonchar, Senators -- Ottawa laid out big money last summer to bring in Gonchar as a free agent after he had 50 points in 62 games for Pittsburgh, only to see him slump to 7 goals, 27 points and a minus-15 rating in 67 games. The Senators have a major investment in Gonchar and need the 37-year-old to return to the form that generated an average of nearly 60 points in his nine previous full seasons.

Mark Streit, Islanders -- It wasn't that Streit had a bad season in 2010-11 -- he had no season. A shoulder injury on a seemingly harmless play during a preseason scrimmage ended the Swiss defenseman's season before it began. Streit and the Isles both say he's healthy, and with the nucleus of a young team starting to mature, the Islanders need their best defenseman to return to top form if they hope to end a four-year playoff drought.

Martin Brodeur, Devils -- The 39-year-old future member of the Hall of Fame enters 2011-12 as the NHL's all-time leader in wins and shutouts -- but he's also coming off the first losing season in his 17-year career. Brodeur's save percentage dropped to .903, his worst since 1995, and he missed significant time with an injury for the second time in three years. He did look sharper in the second half but wants to prove he's still an elite goaltender for a full season.

Niklas Backstrom, Wild -- The NHL's "other" Backstrom didn't have a great year, either. Minnesota's starting goaltender is coming off the first losing season of his career (22-23-8) and missed substantial time with hip injuries. The Wild made several offseason moves to juice up their offense, and they need Backstrom to return to form if they hope to avoid a third straight early summer.

Author: John Kreiser | NHL.com Columnist

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WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 ANA 48 32 10 6 143 124 70
2 NSH 46 31 10 5 141 107 67
3 STL 46 29 13 4 148 111 62
4 CHI 47 30 15 2 148 108 62
5 WPG 49 26 15 8 138 122 60
6 SJS 48 25 17 6 131 132 56
7 VAN 46 26 17 3 124 118 55
8 CGY 48 26 19 3 140 126 55
9 LAK 47 20 15 12 129 126 52
10 COL 49 20 18 11 128 141 51
11 DAL 47 21 19 7 146 154 49
12 MIN 47 21 20 6 130 138 48
13 ARI 47 16 25 6 108 160 38
14 EDM 48 12 27 9 110 160 33

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
A. Ladd 49 17 23 10 40
B. Little 49 18 20 10 38
B. Wheeler 49 13 23 11 36
D. Byfuglien 49 12 20 9 32
M. Perreault 46 15 14 2 29
M. Frolik 49 10 16 6 26
M. Scheifele 49 7 19 4 26
E. Kane 34 10 12 6 22
A. Lowry 48 6 9 3 15
J. Trouba 33 5 9 5 14
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
M. Hutchinson 14 4 2 .935 1.90
O. Pavelec 12 11 6 .911 2.52
 
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