NHL Hockey Odds and Picks: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 12/8/2014
If you wagered before the season at Bovada on the first NHL coach to be fired and you chose Ottawa's Paul MacLean, congratulations because I didn't expect MacLean to be the first one to go. After all, the guy won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's Coach of the Year only two seasons ago.
However, on Monday he was fired with Ottawa off to a 11-11-5 start and 10th in the Eastern Conference. Team ownership clearly won't be satisfied missing the playoffs for a second straight season. The Senators missed them last season with 88 points, and GM Bryan Murray said he talked to MacLean after the season about revisiting things around 20 games into this season to see where the team was headed. MacLean had a 114-90-35 record in the regular season and 8-9 in the playoffs overall. He is being replaced by assistant Dave Cameron. His first game in charge will be at home Thursday against the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.
So that move got me thinking about which coach might be next. My first glance goes toward Philadelphia with the Flyers playing like one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference. They have won just two of their past 12 games and have a scant 22 points, more than only Columbus, Buffalo and Carolina in the East. However, coach Craig Berube is safe, according to a recent statement from GM Ron Hextall. The Flyers did beat the Kings on Saturday night in L.A. to end a six-game skid and could have a good week with games against the Blue Jackets (Tuesday), Devils (Thursday) and Hurricanes (Saturday).
If not Berube, then perhaps Edmonton's Dallas Eakins. Over the weekend, GM Craig MacTavish, a former good player like Hextall, said the entire organization is under scrutiny. That doesn't bode well for Eakins with the Oilers last in the West with 23 points. He might have been fired on Sunday if not for a 2-1 win over San Jose that ended Edmonton's 11-game winless streak. The Oilers have some great young talent at forward, but they don't seem to be progressing.
Other coaches whose seats could get a bit warm are Columbus' Todd Richards, Arizona's Dave Tippett, Toronto's Randy Carlyle (although Leafs are playing better now and up to 16/1 at Bovada to win the Eastern Conference) and Dallas' Lindy Ruff.
Definitely keep an eye on Ducks star right wing Corey Perry. He injured his left knee on a hit from Minnesota's Keith Ballard last Friday, and if it's serious then Anaheim is in big trouble. Perry doesn't believe it is. He didn't play in Sunday's win in Winnipeg but is being examined back in Los Angeles early this week. The Ducks are resume action Wednesday at home against the Oilers. Perry leads the team with 14 goals and had 43 a year ago.
The Blackhawks are surging, and they are about to get back one of their top forwards in Patrick Sharp. Coach Joel Quenneville says he believes Sharp will play Tuesday against New Jersey. Sharp missed his 14th consecutive game for the Hawks on Saturday with a right knee injury suffered Nov. 4 against the Canadiens. He has three goals and six assists in nine games. It was Sharp, not Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane, who led the Hawks with 34 goals last season.
The injury-ravaged Blue Jackets will get back one of their best players Tuesday when Brandon Dubinsky is expected to make his season debut off abdominal surgery. The Jackets' leader in assists (34), faceoff percentage (52.9 percent) and penalty minutes (98) last season underwent abdominal surgery on Oct. 8 - during training camp. He will center left wing Matt Calvert and right wing Cam Atkinson.
Capitals defenseman Mike Green will miss Tuesday's game in Tampa Bay, the seventh straight he has missed with an upper-body injury. Green has been sidelined since Nov. 22, when he was checked hard into the boards. The Caps have gone 3-2-1 without Green. However, it does look good that Green will return Thursday vs. the Jackets.
Calgary's Mason Raymond will likely return to the lineup Tuesday in Toronto. He has missed 17 games with a shoulder injury. In 10 games, Raymond has five goals and seven points.
Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov injured his groin in practice Monday and won't play Tuesday and probably for a few more games. He missed six games earlier with a groin issue. He returned Dec. 4 and played the next two games before getting hurt.
Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford will miss around two weeks after hurting his foot stepping wrong at a concert (that sounds fishy). He is 12-5-1 with a 1.87 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.
This Week's Games to Watch
Vancouver at Montreal, Tuesday: It's the first home game for the Canadiens since the death of legendary former player Jean Beliveau at age 83 last week after a long illness. The team held a tribute at Bell Centre on Sunday with hundreds of fans showing up for the public viewing of Beliveau's closed casket. It was the first such service for a Canadiens player since Maurice "Rocket" Richard died in 2000. I'm guessing there will be something done before Tuesday's game against the Canucks. The Habs enter on a three-game losing streak, while Vancouver has lost two straight. It's already the last meeting of the season between these teams. Montreal lost 3-2 in overtime in Vancouver on Oct. 30. The Canadiens are -125 favorites this time at BookMaker.
Toronto at Detroit, Wednesday: It's always fun when these neighbors play. The Red Wings have climbed to the top of the Eastern Conference with three straight wins. Pavel Datsyuk was the First Star of last week with seven points in four games. Datsyuk has five multi-point performances in his last seven outings and is tied for the team lead in goals with 12 despite missing 11 games due to injury. It's Toronto's last visit to Motown in the regular season. The Wings are 2-1 vs. the Leafs this year, winning the lone home game in OT. The teams play again Saturday in Toronto.
Chicago at Boston, Thursday: This could easily be a Stanley Cup Finals preview as the Hawks make their only visit of the season to Beantown. Chicago has reclaimed the Cup-favored role at Bovada at 13/2. Chicago has won six straight -- including against very good teams like the Ducks, Kings, Blues, Canadiens and Predators -- and nine of 10. Antti Raanta will get the majority of starts in net with Crawford out. : The Bruins will have enjoyed four days off before they face the Blackhawks.
Pittsburgh at Columbus, Saturday: This could be a good value game to bet against the Pens, who certainly will be favorites. The Blue Jackets, as noted above, are getting a bit healthier and playing better. They were 3-0 last week with goalie Sergei Bobrovsky the Second Star in the league. He had a 1.62 goals-against average and .956 save percentage in the three wins. In addition, the Jackets will get Pittsburgh in the second of a back to back as it faces Calgary on Friday night.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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