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Predators favored against Penguins on betting lines for Game 4

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have an excellent track record as a bounce-back team, but they are giving off some distressing signals against the Nashville Predators going into Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.

The Predators are a -155 moneyline favorite against the +135 underdog Penguins with a 5.5-goal total for Monday’s matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Predators are 9-1 in their last 10 home playoff games, according to the OddsShark NHL Database. Nashville is 11-4 in its last 15 home games as a favorite of -140 to -500 on the moneyline.

Pittsburgh leads the best-of-seven series 2-1. The home team has won each of the clubs’ last six meetings.

The Penguins are 13-2 in playoff games after a loss under coach Mike Sullivan and are also 6-4 in in their last 10 playoff games as an underdog on the road. However, star centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were each held without a shot on goal during Game 3, a first in their time playing together.

Pittsburgh has also counted on its power play throughout much of its playoff run, but it is only 1-for-13 with the extra skater so far against Nashville. Crosby has yet to score in the series.

Health-wise, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan might have to shuffle his forward lines if center Nick Bonino (left foot) is unable to play. Bonino is listed as doubtful, although he practiced on Sunday. Pittsburgh also needs to create more opportunities for Phil Kessel. While Jake Guentzel has a series-high four goals, those have come on only six shots on goal (hardly a sustainable shooting percentage).

Nashville, which is 13-6 in the playoffs, has been the better team in even-strength play during the course of the series. The Predators are often able to control the tempo of a game due to the defensive foursome of P.K. Subban, Mattias Ekholm, Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis, who all have at least 10 points during the playoffs.

While some puck luck played into the 5-1 score during the Predators’ first win against Pittsburgh on Saturday, other key elements included staying out of the penalty box as well as getting an injection of speed from the creation of a line of Frederick Gaudreau, Harry Zolnierczyk and P.A. Parenteau.

Goalie Pekka Rinne (27 saves on 28 shots) also regained his usual form. If that continues, Nashville should have an excellent chance of taking another win at home and reducing the series to a best-of-three.

The total has gone over in seven of Nashville’s last 10 home games against Eastern Conference teams. The total has gone over in 11 of Nashville’s last 16 home games (playoffs and regular season) when it was a favorite of -150 to -500 on the moneyline.

Lightning, Golden Knights co-favorites on updated Stanley Cup odds

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A season that is nothing short of historic for an expansion team has put the Vegas Golden Knights at the top of the odds to win the Stanley Cup, but bettors will no doubt look past that since the playoffs are practically a different sport.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and the aforementioned Golden Knights are +600 co-favorites on the latest Stanley Cup futures at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

With just less than a third of the regular season to go and the NHL’s February 26 trade deadline less than two weeks away, the top of the board also includes the surging Boston Bruins (+800), Nashville Predators (+850), two-time defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins (+900) and Winnipeg Jets (+1200), as well as the Toronto Maple Leafs (+1500) and Washington Capitals (+1500).

The Golden Knights, out of the four division leaders, have the highest chance of staying in first place and securing home-ice advantage. It remains to be seen if a team put together last summer can stick together in the playoffs; right wing James Neal is the only one of the Golden Knights’ top six scorers who has played in a Stanley Cup final.

Thanks to the division-based playoff format, only one team between the Lightning and the Bruins can advance past the second round. The Atlantic Division race will be worth monitoring as Tampa Bay, led by right wing Nikita Kucherov, and Boston, led by the likes of left wing Brad Marchand, are both near the top of the NHL in points percentage and goal differential. Each of the last 10 Stanley Cup winners has had a goal differential of at least +25, meaning that yes, the regular season does count to some extent.

The Maple Leafs have a Vezina Trophy candidate in Frederik Andersen, but only twice in the last 20 years has the league’s top goalie led his team to the Cup.

The Penguins and captain extraordinaire Sidney Crosby are coming on strongly in the Metropolitan Division and, of course, seem to have the Capitals’ number in the playoffs. No team has won three Cups in a row since the 1976-79 Montreal Canadiens won four straight in a league that was barely half the size of the current 31-team circuit.

While Nashville and Winnipeg are separated by 1,300 miles and an international border, their playoff roads could also go through each other in the Central Division. The price on the Predators and defenseman P.K. Subban probably reflects the track record they built while coming within two games of hoisting the Stanley Cup a season ago.

Winnipeg is an intriguing dark horse that has stayed near the top of the division and Western Conference even though No. 1 center Mark Scheifele has missed about a quarter of the schedule due to injury.

Teams that can be probably be crossed off include the sagging Chicago Blackhawks (+5000), Carolina Hurricanes (+5000) and New York Rangers (+5000). All three will probably be cashing in some trade chips this month as they try to retool.

For more odds info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Bruins road favorites at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday

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The Boston Bruins, the hottest team in the NHL’s Eastern Conference, are likely starting a backup goalie on Wednesday night and have a shaky record in the second leg of back-to-back games. Whether that comes into play depends on their opponent.

The Bruins are a -120 moneyline favorite against the struggling New York Rangers, who are coming back at +105. There is also a 5.5-goal total for their matchup on Wednesday night, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Boston comes into its first game with left wing Brad Marchand back from suspension with a 13-3 record over its last 16 away games, as well as a 10-0 mark in its last 10 games when they were favored on the road. However, Boston is 3-5 this season while playing for the second night in a row, as well as 0-5 in its last five road games against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.

With that said, this is a matchup of first versus almost the worst in everyone’s NHL power rankings, as the Bruins are 32-11-8 on the season, including an 8-1-1 record in their last 10 games. The return of Marchand to the top line with center Patrice Bergeron and right wing David Pastrnak is timely, since depth forwards Noel Acciari (lower-body), Anders Bjork (upper-body) and Jimmy Vatrano (lower-body) are all ailing.

Boston, which is an even 5-5 over its last 10 road games against Metropolitan Division teams, will likely start backup goalie Anton Khudobin. He is 0-2-2 lifetime against New York.

Understandably, the recent efforts of the Rangers, whose 25-23-5 record includes being 3-7 in their last 10 games, will give many bettors pause. Amid rumors of left wing Rick Nash being unloaded before the NHL trade deadline on February 26, the Rangers are scuffling offensively, having scored more than two goals only twice in their last seven games.

Center Mika Zibanejad has been a bright spot, but New York has been a dreadful possession team and having right wing Pavel Buchnevich (concussion) and left wing Jimmy Vesey (concussion) injured reduces their capacity to be a spread team.

While the Metropolitan Division is more highly regarded than the Atlantic Division, the Rangers are just 5-9 in their last 14 regular-season home games against Atlantic teams. However, longtime goalie Henrik Lundqvist is 27-12-2 in his career against Boston, so the low-percentage value play predicated on Lundqvist stonewalling the Bruins and stealing the win is available.

The total has gone over in three of the Bruins’ last four road games against the Metropolitan Division, with one push, according to the OddsShark NHL Database. The total has gone over in the Bruins’ last three road games against the Rangers. The total has also gone over in six of the Rangers’ last 10 games as an underdog at home.

For more odds info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.