NHL Hockey Odds and Picks: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 12/15/2014
I mentioned last week when Ottawa fired head coach Paul MacLean that on any short list of the next coach to go had to be Edmonton's Dallas Eakins. I just didn't expect that to come true so quickly.
Eakins was fired Monday, with general manager Craig MacTavish to serve as the interim coach until handing over the job to Todd Nelson, who will be promoted from Edmonton's AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City and learn under MacTavish's wing for a while. The Oilers enter the week with just seven wins -- having lost 15 of their past 16 games -- and 19 points, tied for the fewest with Carolina. The club shouldn't be that bad, not with all the young talent it has accumulated by picking so high in the draft over the past several years. With an average age of under 27, the Oilers' roster includes three No. 1 overall picks: Taylor Hall in 2010, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 2011 and Nail Yakupov in 2012. However, none of those good young players are goaltenders, and that's where the Oilers have had a gaping hole for a while.
"He's an excellent coach; I was happy with a lot of things," MacTavish said. "I had no real good reason to do this outside of performance."
Since MacTavish was fired after the 2008-09 season, Nelson will become the sixth coach, following Pat Quinn, Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger, Eakins and MacTavish. Nelson made the AHL playoffs in all four of his full seasons in Oklahoma City.
You even hear talk that MacTavish may look into the trade value of Hall. He has eight goals and 10 assists this season after finishing with a career-high 80 points last year. MacTavish will be behind the bench for Tuesday's game at Arizona. The Coyotes are -150 favorites at BookMaker.
What on earth is going on in the NHL with the mumps? The latest guy to succumb to the very preventable disease is only its biggest star: Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby. He missed his third straight game Monday with the mumps. Another of the league's top players, Anaheim's Corey Perry, had them earlier this season. Crosby now makes 14 players officially diagnosed. The time missed really depends. Minnesota defenseman Keith Ballard missed eight games with them but teammate Ryan Suter just two. Now there's a fear that Crosby's teammate, Beau Bennett, also has them.
The Bruins will get back one of their best players this week in forward David Krejci. He will travel with the team on its three-game road trip and has been practicing. A lower-body injury has cost Krejci 19 games overall and the past 10. The Bruins are just 1-4-1 in their past six games. Krejci can only help an offense that has scored four or more goals only nine times in 30 games this season. The Bruins have been limited to 19 goals in the past nine games.
Lightning winger Ondrej Palat (eight goals, 11 assists) has missed two straight games and will miss at least two more with a lower-body injury.
I mentioned last week to keep an eye on the knee injury to the Ducks' Perry, and indeed he will miss up to the next three weeks because of it. He leads the team with 14 goals in 23 games. Anaheim hasn't missed him too much, winning seven straight entering Tuesday's matchup at Toronto.
Detroit forward Justin Abdelkader has missed seven games with a separated shoulder but could be back on Tuesday. He has seven goals and eight assists in 24 games.
This Week's Games to Watch
Los Angeles at St. Louis, Tuesday: The Kings have lost four of five and are on the fringe of playoff contention in the Western Conference. St. Louis, which has won four straight games, then goes to Los Angeles on Thursday and the clubs are done for the regular season. The Blues lost at the Kings 1-0 in a shootout on Oct. 16 in their only meeting. St. Louis is a -150 BookMaker favorite for Tuesday. The Blues are 2-7-2 in the past nine regular-season games against the Kings since going 4-0-0 in 2010-11. The Blues remain without No. 1 goalie Brian Elliott due to a knee injury.
Anaheim at Montreal, Thursday: The Ducks make their only trip of the season to Montreal. The Ducks lead the NHL with 47 points, and netminder Frederik Anderson has been playing out of his mind. He has started each game of the team's current seven-game winning streak and is only the third goaltender in franchise history to win seven straight in the regular season. Anderson has given up just four goals in the last three games.
Chicago at Columbus, Saturday: The Blue Jackets are getting healthy, and it's showing in the standings as Columbus enters the week on a season-high six-game winning streak -- that includes wins over very good teams Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. Not bad considering the Jackets had six wins in its first 23 games. Thus, it still has quite a climb to get into playoff contention in the East. Columbus made an interesting trade last week in acquiring young winger Jeremy Morin from the Blackhawks for defenseman Tim Erixon. Morin was at one point considered one of Chicago's top offensive prospects, but he couldn't get on the ice much with the Hawks this season.
Philadelphia at Toronto, Saturday: Toronto has recorded five straight wins and won nine of its past 11 (9-1-1). Usually when you have two goaltenders that means you don't have a true No. 1, but both Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer have been playing well. Toronto has been the league's best team since hitting rock bottom: a 9-2 home loss to Nashville on Nov. 18. Coach Randy Carlyle's job was in danger back then. On Sunday night, the Maple Leafs improved to 13-0-0 this season, when scoring the first goal of the game. It's the first meeting of the season with the disappointing Flyers.
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