Yesterday, we looked at the three Philadelphia Flyers defensemen who appear to have to earn their spots on the team in the preseason.
Today, we'll look at forwards. Eleven remain from the team that took the Blackhawks to six games in the Stanley Cup finals just a few months ago, with Simon Gagne and Arron Asham the only casualties. They will be joined by new acquisitions Bill Guerin, Nikolai Zherdev and Jody Shelley, all fighting for 12 spots in the starting lineup on opening night Oct. 7 in Pittsburgh - though two or three more could be kept on the team as healthy scratches.
Forwards Zherdev, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Ville Leino, Danny Briere, Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux are locks.
Here's a look at the guys on the bubble, and their chances of making the team.
Bill Guerin - One of the greatest American players ever, Guerin is in camp on a tryout contract, having been let go by the Penguins despite scoring 21 goals last season. He turns 40 on Nov. 9, but he has scored at least 20 goals in 10 of his last 11 seasons, including an average of 25 in the past four. He also has the experience of playing for two Cup champions (Pittsburgh in 2008-09, New Jersey in 1994-95) and an Olympic silver medalist (U.S. in 2002). After subtracting Simon Gagne's leadership in a trade to get under the salary cap this offseason, the Flyers could use Guerin. He is only in camp on a tryout contract, but so was Blair Betts last season, and Betts ended up being a key player during the Stanley Cup run.
Dan Carcillo - Carcillo is one of Laviolette's favorite players because of his grit, and the fans love him, too. But he was already bumped from the lineup in the playoffs last season when everyone was healthy, and now he has even more competition. Carcillo is valuable because he can be a competent contributor on a scoring line despite the fact that he's more known for fighting. But he could be expendable because he won't make the team based purely on talent, and he also won't make it as the designated enforcer after the offseason signing of Jody Shelley, who is three inches taller and 25 pounds heavier.
Jody Shelley - Shelley signed a three-year contract, so he's almost a lock to make the team. The question is how frequently the 34-year-old actually will be in the lineup. Last year's enforcer, Riley Cote, played in just 15 games. With the talent and depth the Flyers have - and especially if Carcillo makes the team - Shelley might be lucky to play 30 games.
Blair Betts - Betts became an extremely valuable player for the Flyers last season after joining the team on a tryout contract similar to Guerin's. He centered the checking line and was a top penalty-killer, and the Flyers went 50-29-7 with him in the lineup as opposed to 5-13-1 when he was out. But the 30-year-old still is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and could have a hard time finding a spot in the lineup when he gets back, especially if Darroll Powe, who is five years younger, plays well as the checking-line center in his absence.
Ian Laperriere - The man known affectionately as "Lappy" almost doesn't belong on this list. He was known as one of the league's top defensive forwards even before cementing his spot in Flyers lore by using his face to block a shot in the first round against the Devils. But he's 36, and he was not quite the same player after returning from the brain contusion and facial injuries he suffered blocking that shot. He's arguably the nicest guy on the team and a fan favorite, so it would be tough for Laviolette to cut him, but it could happen.
James van Riemsdyk - Van Riemsdyk probably doesn't belong on this list, but he was a healthy scratch twice in the Cup finals, so there's a chance he could be on his way out if he has a bad preseason. The 21-year-old from Middletown had an OK rookie season, and when he returned for the last two games of the Cup finals, he started to show flashes of the player the Flyers were hoping for when they drafted him No. 2 overall in 2007. He used his 6-foot-3 frame to protect the puck in deep, setting up teammates and also scoring one goal himself. But the Flyers can't wait much longer for him to do that on a consistent basis, since they are built to win now. If he is outplayed by Guerin and Carcillo in camp, he could find himself on the trading block.
Darroll Powe - Powe is a longshot to make the team. He's a solid defensive player and penalty-killer, and he can play both center and wing. He's only 25 and has some speed, and he stayed in the lineup for every playoff game, even when Carcillo and Van Riemsdyk were healthy scratches for some games. But his 15 points last season were the lowest on the team among the top 16 forwards. When there was only one odd man out, Powe made the cut. But now, with the additions of Guerin and Zherdev and the only subtraction being Gagne, Powe's best chance at making the team might be if age catches up to Laperriere or injuries to Betts.