Ovechkin, Capitals Wednesday favorites hosting the Rangers

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With goalie Henrik Lundqvist in need of fine-tuning his game before the Stanley Cup playoffs, the New York Rangers will carry a positive trend into their rivalry matchup against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night.

With little on the line standings-wise since both teams are locked into a playoff position, Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals are -190 betting favorites against the visiting +165 underdog Rangers, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Since November 2011, the Rangers are 7-3 straight-up in regular-season road games against the Capitals. Both teams are likely to hold out key players who have anything more serious than a hangnail. Washington has clinched the Presidents’ Trophy with the best overall record in the NHL, while the Rangers will be a cross-over wild-card team in the first round, facing the Montreal Canadiens in an Atlantic Division series.

The Rangers are 47-26-6 on the season, although they are just 3-7 across their last 10 games. Lundqvist, the franchise goalie, will be making his fifth start since missing three weeks due to hip injuries.

New York coach Alain Vigneault confirmed Tuesday that D Ryan McDonagh, RW Jesper Fast, RW Rick Nash and RW Mats Zuccarello will not play, along with possibly several other players. New York is very much a scoring-by-committee team, though, and fill-ins such as Pavel Buchnevich, Tanner Glass and Matt Puempel will be eager to show they deserve to be in the lineup, not the press box.

Lundqvist is 12-4-2 in his last 18 appearances against Washington.

Washington is 53-18-8 overall on the season, including 8-2 across its last 10 games. With home-ice advantage for the playoffs not in question, coach Barry Trotz might sit some of his key players, especially since Washington played the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.

The Capitals are 4-6 in the last 10 contests when they were playing the second of back-to-back games, according to the OddsShark NHL Database.

Defenseman John Carlson, for one, was a game-time scratch for Washington against Toronto. However, goalie Braden Holtby is one key player who will surely start, since understudy Philipp Grubauer was between the pipes on Tuesday. Holtby is 7-9-1 in 17 career games against the Rangers.

The total has gone over in four consecutive Rangers’ games. The total has also gone over in six of New York’s eight most recent divisional road games, with one push. However, the total has gone over in just two of the Capitals’ 10 most recent divisional home games.

Penguins heavy home betting favorites against Blues as NHL season begins

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Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, who typically take care of business as a big moneyline favorite on home ice, face an already banged-up team in their season opener.

The Penguins are a -200 moneyline favorite against the St. Louis Blues (+165) at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com in one of the featured betting matchups on the NHL’s opening night on Wednesday.

The Penguins, who are also the favorite on the odds to win the Stanley Cup, are 7-3 in their last 10 regular-season home games as a moneyline favorite of at least -175. They are also 14-6 in their last 20 home games in October.

St. Louis went 12-5 in its final 17 road games last season but is missing several regulars due to injuries, including D Jay Bouwmeester (ankle), C Patrik Berglund (shoulder) and LW Alexander Steen (hand). That could make it easier for the Penguins, whose only reported injury is to LW Patric Hornqvist (hand), to focus on stopping Blues RW Vladimir Tarasenko, the offensive leader for St. Louis.

The total has gone under in five of the Blues’ last six road games.

Elsewhere on Wednesday night, the San Jose Sharks (-160) are favored against the Philadelphia Flyers (+130). The Sharks finished last season as a shaky play at 3-6 on the puckline in their final nine home games, but C Joe Thornton and C Logan Couture were hampered by injuries at that time.

The Flyers, who are 2-7 in their last nine road games against the Pacific Division, are hoping to have D Shayne Gostisbehere (upper body) on the ice on Wednesday night.

The total has gone under in the Sharks’ last five home games in October.

The Winnipeg Jets (-120) are a slight home favorite against the Toronto Maple Leafs (-110). The Leafs, with a cadre of young stars led by C Auston Matthews, are overdue for a turn in fortune against Winnipeg. They are 2-8 in their last 10 games against Winnipeg, including an 0-5 streak in their last five road games.

The total has gone over in Toronto’s last five road games against Winnipeg. Last season the Jets, led by RW Patrik Laine, were seventh in the NHL in goals scored but allowed the fourth-most, so that trend might continue.

And the Edmonton Oilers (-160), led by Connor McDavid, are favored against the Calgary Flames (+130). While the Flames are more about offense by committee than star power with LW Johnny Gaudreau, C Sean Monahan and C Mikael Backlund leading the way, they are 8-3 in their last 11 road games against the Oilers.

Calgary’s Achilles heel was goaltending last season, but it has added veteran G Mike Smith. The total has gone under in nine of Edmonton’s last 13 home games against Calgary, according to the OddsShark NHL Database.

 

Edmonton Oilers close gap on Pittsburgh Penguins on Stanley Cup odds

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The Stanley Cup futures board might appear to be based on the “don’t bet against Sidney Crosby” principle, but it also reflects the disparity between the NHL’s two conferences.

With the regular season beginning next week, Sid the Kid and the two-time reigning champion Penguins remain the +750 betting favorite to lift the silver chalice in 2017/18, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

But since the board opened in June, the price on the Edmonton Oilers and Connor McDavid have come down to +800. Of course, the Oilers would have to get through the tough Pacific Division in the playoffs, and likely a tough Central Division club in the conference final.

The Penguins have freed up salary-cap space by seeing off G Marc-Andre Fleury. Being in the Eastern Conference, which isn’t as deep as the West, also means a better chance of getting through three series to make the Stanley Cup final. The Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks (+1200) might not have the depth to skate through such a gauntlet.

No fewer than six teams – the Anaheim Ducks, Dallas Stars, 2017 runner-up Nashville Predators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals – are being offered at +1400. Losing two-way C Ryan Kesler to hip surgery makes it best to take a wait-and-see approach with Anaheim.

From among that group, Nashville, due to its defense and goaltending, and Tampa Bay, due to having stars such as D Victor Hedman and C Nikita Kucherov as well as a clean bill of health for C Steven Stamkos, are justifiable plays.

McDavid (+150) is the favorite to win the Hart Trophy as most valuable player, followed by Crosby and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 20-year-old phenom Auston Matthews (+850). Being in the league’s largest media market could goose Matthews’ chances, although the Leafs aren’t quite a contender yet.

The playoffs and regular season are practically two different sports in the NHL, so laying chalk in division props is not a must. Pittsburgh (+225) is favored on the odds to win the Metropolitan Division, but the lower-profile Columbus Blue Jackets (+450) with their all-American defense pairing of Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, could make it interesting. Washington (+300) is probably due to take a step back.

Tampa Bay (+275) is favored to win the Atlantic Division. The Montreal Canadiens (+350) might be too reliant on goalie Carey Price, while Toronto (+375) had almost everything go right last season on the goaltending and injury fronts while squeaking into the playoffs.

There could also be some big-star bias inherent in Dallas (+275) and Chicago (+300) topping the Central Division board. Nashville (+350) is deeper defensively and in goal than both of those teams.

Edmonton (+225) has the low price in the Pacific Division, and as a younger team are more likely than the Anaheim Ducks (+275) to go all out for first place. Their rivals, the Calgary Flames (+600), might actually be Edmonton’s biggest barrier to regular-season supremacy, with both the Los Angeles Kings (+500) and San Jose Sharks (+450) being aging teams.