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Rangers betting favorites against Penguins in spite of home-ice woes

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With star goalie Henrik Lundqvist due for his first home start in three weeks, the New York Rangers stand an excellent chance of breaking two negative trends when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night.

The Rangers are listed as the -130 favorite against the +100 underdog Penguins with a total of 5.5 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Rangers are 0-7 straight-up in their last seven home games at Madison Square Garden, but much of that trend occurred while Lundqvist was sidelined with a hip injury. The Sidney Crosby-led Pittsburgh Penguins are also scuffling due to a plethora of injuries, having lost four games in a row.

The Penguins are 46-19-11 this season, including 4-6 across their last 10 games. Crosby may be reunited with each of his linemates, since LW Conor Sheary is back and RW Jake Guentzel (concussion) is a game-time decision. Veteran D Ron Hainsey (upper body) may also return.

Injuries throughout the second half have contributed to the Penguins having to adopt a simplified system, which might be a contributing factor to why the total in their last three road games against Metropolitan Division counterparts has gone under.

Matt Murray, who has a 2.86 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in March, will likely start in goal for the Penguins. Backup Marc-Andre Fleury got the call on Wednesday against the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Rangers are 46-26-5 this season, including 3-7 across their last 10 games. Lundqvist will be trying to find his form before the playoffs; he allowed five goals apiece in each of his first two starts since returning.

New York, which relies on scoring by committee through Mats Zuccarello, J.T. Miller, Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan, has already clinched a playoff berth but will likely finish fourth in the Metropolitan. With their recent struggles, though, it’s doubtful they will go on auto-pilot before the playoffs. Stepan goes into the game on a four-game point streak.

Defencemen Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Klein did not practice on Thursday, but are likely to play. The Rangers are 1-5 in their last six home games against fellow Metropolitan teams.

The total has gone under in eight of the Penguins’ last 10 road games and has also gone under in four of their last six games as a road underdog, according to the OddsShark NHL Database.

Friday NHL playoff slate has Bruins, Capitals set as the betting favorites

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With Bobby Ryan and the Ottawa Senators having won three one-goal decisions in a row to put the Boston Bruins on the brink of elimination, oddsmakers’ lines seem to anticipate that a turnaround could be in the offing.

The Bruins are a slight -120 moneyline favorite against the -110 underdog Senators with a five-goal total for their Game 5 matchup on Friday, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Ottawa, which is up 3-1 in the best-of-seven series, is actually 8-2 straight-up in its last 10 home games against the Bruins.

While the Senators and standout defenseman Erik Karlsson are only 7-10 at home against fellow Atlantic Division teams this season, they have been able to frustrate Boston during this series. They are also 8-1 in the last nine games that goalie Craig Anderson has started against Boston.

The Bruins will once again not have a full lineup since defensemen Torey Krug (lower body), Adam McQuaid (upper body) and Brandon Carlo (upper body) are not expected to play. Up front, Boston is also floundering at drawing penalties, having earned just seven power plays in the last three games.

The total has gone OVER in four of the Bruins’ last six divisional road games, with one push, according to the OddsShark NHL Database. The total has gone UNDER in seven of the Senators’ last 10 home games.

In the other Game 5 of an Eastern Conference series, the Washington Capitals (-210) are heavy favorites at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs (+170) with a 5.5-goal total. The moneyline is significantly lower from where it closed for the Capitals’ first two home games in the series, which was before Toronto banked a win.

The Capitals and their offensive leaders such as Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie were able to seize on some structural breakdowns by Toronto in a series-tying 5-4 win on Tuesday. The Leafs, particularly a fledgling defensive corps featuring the likes of Jake Gardiner and Nikita Zaitsev, will have to pare down their mistakes. It does appear that Toronto, with their young guns such as Auston Matthews, will keep getting their share of scoring chances.

Washington is 6-2 in its last eight home games as a favorite of -200 to -500 on the moneyline. However, Toronto is 4-1 in its last five games as a road underdog.

The total has gone UNDER in six of Toronto’s last nine road games as an underdog. The total has also gone UNDER in four of the Capitals’ last five home games in April.

Blackhawks Favored on Stanley Cup Odds Heading into NHL Playoffs

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The NHL is not a dynasty league, but having won a Stanley Cup can create an image with oddsmakers.

On the cusp of the playoffs, captain Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks are the +400 favorites on the 2017 Stanley Cup odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Chicago has won the Cup in three of the last seven seasons and played well down the stretch to earn home-ice advantage through the first three rounds, at least.

However, it’s the Metropolitan Division that dominates the top of the futures board with Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals (+450), Sidney Crosby and the reigning champion Pittsburgh Penguins (+800), the pesky Columbus Blue Jackets (+1000) and the New York Rangers (+1400), who are a cross-over team.

Playing out of the weaker Atlantic Division, the Montreal Canadiens (+1400) may stand a good chance of getting to the third round unscathed, and of course goalie Carey Price can steal games.

The Minnesota Wild (+800) faded badly in the last quarter of the regular season. The San Jose Sharks (+1400) were two wins from the Cup in 2016, but the lingering effect of a deep playoff run has been borne out with the injuries to centers Joe Thornton and Logan Couture.

The Capitals are listed at +225 on the odds to win the Eastern Conference, followed by the Penguins (+350). The rest of the field would need a lot of breaks and lights-out goaltending to win, which means Montreal (+650) has the most tangible value.

The Blackhawks are a +180 favorite to win the West. Minnesota (+400) has a lot of red flags. With Pacific Division teams, there’s always a question about travel lag, so perhaps the young Edmonton Oilers (+800) and Connor McDavid are worth a play. The St. Louis Blues (+1400) could pose a problem for the Blackhawks if each moves on to the Central Division final.

No No. 1 seed has been eliminated in the first round since the NHL re-introduced a division-based playoff format in 2013-14. In the first-round series prices, Montreal (-125) has the worst odds of any first-place team, but they dominated New York (+105) during the season and sit at a 57.2% chance to win the series according to the numbers at PredictionMachine.com.

The Anaheim Ducks (-165) face the up-and-coming Calgary Flames (+145). Calgary goes into the series with an 0-27 SU streak in their last 27 road games against Anaheim, and will have to win there at least once to take the series.

It’s probably better to focus on 2 vs. 3 matchups when trying to pick a betting underdog. In the Central bracket, St. Louis (+123) is a classic case of a team reborn after a coaching change and their bench boss, Mike Yeo, used to be employed by their opponent, Minnesota (-143).

And the Ottawa Senators (+155) are a much more consistent team than the Boston Bruins (-175) and won in all four regular-season matchups.