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Penguins host Flyers as favorites at Heinz Field on Saturday night

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With a depleted defense corps, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins could be vulnerable against the Philadelphia Flyers when they take their cross-state rivalry outside on Saturday night.

The Penguins are a -206 betting favorite against the +185 Flyers with a 5.5-goal total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com in their NHL Stadium Series matchup, which will take place at Heinz Field on Saturday night.

The defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins are dealing with injuries to a quartet of defensemen, with Kris Letang (upper body), Olli Maatta (hand), Trevor Daley (knee) and Justin Schultz (concussion) all banged up.

But as one would expect of a team led by Crosby, the Penguins don’t squander opportunities when they’re a big favorite. The OddsShark NHL Database shows the Penguins are 9-1 straight up in their last 10 home games as a favorite with a moneyline of -200 to -500.

Philadelphia is 28-25-7 on the season, including a 2-6 mark in their last eight games. The Flyers need to start winning soon in order to stay in the Eastern Conference wild card race, and need the likes of C Claude Giroux and C Brayden Schenn to pick up the pace offensively.

Goalie Michal Neuvirth will make his sixth consecutive start for the Flyers, but has a 2.38 goals-against average and just an .894 save percentage since the all-star break.

The Flyers are overdue for an upset win on the road. They are 1-11 in their last dozen games as the road underdog. Their track record when the odds are really against them is closer to respectability; they are 3-7 in their last 10 road games as an underdog with a moneyline of -150 to -500.

Pittsburgh is 37-14-8 on the season, but injuries on the back end have led to a modest 6-4 record over their last 10 games. With Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Matt Cullen, the Penguins are one of the strongest teams in the NHL down the middle.

Veteran defenseman Ron Hainsey, who was picked up by the Penguins on Thursday in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes, and will make his Pittsburgh debut. But the Penguins are going to be a shaky pick as long as they are relying on replacement-level rearguards such as Cameron Gaunce and Steve Oleksy.

In spite of the instability on the blue line – and the NHL’s midseason mandating of more form-fitting goalie pants – Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray has a 1.82 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage since the all-star break. The Penguins are also 16-4 in their last 20 home games as the favorite.

For whatever it is worth, the Penguins are 1-2 all-time in outdoor games. The Flyers are 0-2.

The total has gone over in eight of Pittsburgh’s last 11 home games as the favorite. The total has also gone over in seven of Pittsburgh’s last 10 home games against its division.

USA Hockey, women’s players to meet Monday in Philadelphia

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USA Hockey and representatives of the women’s national team will meet Monday to discuss a wage dispute that could lead to players boycotting the upcoming world championships.

John Langel, a lawyer for the players, tells The Associated Press that they’ll meet with USA Hockey officials in Philadelphia two days before the scheduled start of training camp. Players announced Wednesday they’d boycott camp and the tournament unless significant progress is made in negotiations on what they hope is a four-year contract.

The International Ice Hockey Federation Women’s World Championship begins March 31 in Plymouth, Michigan. The U.S. is the defending champion and has won six of the past eight world championships.

USA Hockey and players traded barbs Friday over demands but agreed to meet to further discussions.

Players are seeking a deal that pays them outside the six-month Olympic period. USA Hockey has said it is not in the business of employing players but is still hoping the players picked for the world championships are on the ice when it begins.

Standout forward Hilary Knight, who is expected to attend the meeting after playing in the National Women’s Hockey League final Sunday, said Friday that it was her hope that USA Hockey would “reach out to our lawyers and present something that’s worth sitting down to the table for.”

After players called numbers released by USA Hockey “patently false,” fellow star Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson said, “I just think they need to come to the table and let’s talk about it.”

Players have said USA Hockey pays them nothing outside the Olympic period and $1,000 a month for the six months leading up to the Games.

Knight, Lamoureux-Davidson and twin sister Monique Lamoureux-Morando, captain Meghan Duggan, Kacey Bellamy and Kendal Coyne are scheduled to take part in the meeting on the players’ side. A USA Hockey spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for who will represent the organization at the meeting Monday.

 

Crosby, Penguins road betting favorites at Flyers for Wednesday night

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Despite multiple injuries on defense, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins will try to maintain their mastery of Metropolitan Division opponents when they take on the rival Philadelphia Flyers on the road on Wednesday night.

Although they are just coming back from a road trip through western Canada, the Penguins are a -150 betting favorite against the +120 underdog Flyers with a 5.5-goal total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Pittsburgh is 9-3 straight-up over its last 12 games against fellow Metropolitan clubs, according to the OddsShark NHL Database, as well as 9-4 as a road favorite in the month of March over the last five seasons.

The Penguins are 43-16-9 overall, including 7-3 across their last 10 games. Pittsburgh has managed to close the gap on the Washington Capitals for first overall in the NHL even though eight of their players – four defensemen and four forwards – are now injured. Defenseman Mark Streit (lower body) was hurt blocking a shot against the Calgary Flames on Monday, joining an injury list on the back end that includes Kris Letang, Olli Maatta and Trevor Daley.

With Crosby and his wings Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary, and Evgeni Malkin helming a strong second scoring line, the Penguins are as gifted at puck possession as any NHL team. They will also try to take advantage of a vulnerable Flyers penalty kill that has been scored on in seven of their last 12 opportunities.

Starting goalie Matt Murray will likely get the call for the Penguins, who are 5-5 in their last 10 road games as a favorite with a -125 to -500 moneyline.

The Flyers are 31-29-8, including 4-6 in their last 10 games. The main question with the Flyers, who have lost three in a row, is how motivated a team of veterans, such as C Claude Giroux and LW Jakub Voracek, will be after those losses left them even farther adrift of the pack chasing an Eastern Conference wild card playoff berth. The power play has also been problematic, as Philadelphia has converted just two of its last 26 chances.

Michal Neuvirth might get the call in goal for the Flyers, who are 4-6 in their last 10 games as a home underdog. Steve Mason has been busy lately and was also lit up in his only appearance this season against the Penguins.

The total has gone under in seven of these teams’ last 10 meetings in Philadelphia, according to the betting trends for the matchup. The total has gone under in seven of the Penguins’ last 10 road games. The total has also gone under in eight of the Flyers’ last 10 home games, with one push.