NHL Betting: The Week's Biggest Stories
by Trevor Whenham - 02/09/2009
Flames Not Burning Bright
Calgary is either a very hot team or a very cold one, and right now they are definitely in a cold phase. After winning 12 games in 15 tries, the team has lost four in a row. Not just that, but they have looked lousy doing it. Jarome Iginla is supposed to be a world-class sniper, and he could be Canada's captain at the Olympics next year, but he has just six goals in the last two months, and his play is consistently dull. The Flames have a comfortable lead in the Northwest Division, so the concerns aren't immediate on that front. The way they are playing right now, though, they certainly aren't worth betting consideration until they start showing signs of life again.
Buffalo loses Vanek
The Sabres' playoff chances took a serious blow this week with the loss of Thomas Vanek for a month. Vanek is the offensive force for the Sabres, and he sits third in the league in goals, so his fractured jaw comes at a bad time for a team with just a four-point cushion in their playoff spot. The only saving grace for the team is that it's only a broken jaw, so he should be able to return to the team in good form when he comes back, he'll be able to stay in reasonable shape when he is gone, and he may even get back early.
Dallas' Rising Star
In the middle of December the Stars were three games below .500 and mired at the bottom of the Western Conference. Things were bleak. Since then, though, they are an impressive 15-5-3, and have moved into fifth in the conference. The surge is really a reward for those who had faith in the team. They are a very talented team, and more than one expert picked them as a serious Stanley Cup contender, so the last two months have been much closer to the true potential of this team than the start was. The resurgence also corresponds with the departure of Sean Avery, but I still think that that has to be more of a coincidence than a cause.
Avery On His Way Back?
Speaking of Sean Avery, it seems as if he will return to the league sooner rather than later. Nothing is certain at this point, but it would be very surprising if he isn't in a Rangers jersey before the end of the month. The move makes good sense for both sides. Avery was very effective for the Rangers last year, and he seemed to fit with the system much better than he did in Dallas. The Rangers have toughness and heart issues, so Avery should be able to give the team the boost it needs. If he can keep his act together, that is. The odds of that aren't particularly good, though.
Steve Mason on IR
Columbus suffered a blow this week when goalie Steve Mason was put on the injured reserve. He was diagnosed with mono at the end of January, and Columbus' training staff figures he had it for much longer than that. At this point it's not known how much time he will miss, but losing the goalie with the best goals-against average in the league is a big blow for a team just one point out of the playoffs - especially when the backup combo of Wade Dubielewicz and Dan LaCosta is one of the worst in the league. Mason can't get back soon enough for bettors, and there's a good chance he'll get back as quickly as absolutely possible - not just for his team, but because continued strong play could earn him the third goalie spot on the Canadian Olympic team next year.
Minnesota Has a Boost Coming
The Wild are in the midst of the very tough Western Conference playoff battle. To improve their chances of making it they really need some help. Near the top of that list would be a puck-moving defenseman that can score some points and contribute to the power play. That's what most teams could use, though, so the trade price will be big. Luckily, Minnesota has just that kind of player coming, and they don't have to give up anything. Kurtis Foster broke his leg back in March and hasn't played since, but he has returned to game action in the AHL with Houston. As a veteran he can only stay in the minors for two weeks on a conditioning stint, so he should be back and ready to contribute to Minnesota's stretch drive soon. Foster didn't factor into the score sheet in his first game in Houston Sunday except for an interference penalty, but he looked good considering the amount of rust.