NHL Hockey Odds and Picks: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 11/10/2014
Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of a day that Steven Stamkos and Tampa Bay Lightning fans would like to forget. The most electrifying player in the NHL -- and he is, more than Sidney Crosby -- broke his leg in a game against Boston, costing Stamkos the chance to play in the Olympics for Team Canada. Stamkos still isn't arguably all the way back with his explosiveness, at least on an every-night basis.
"Is it ever going to feel the same way [as] before? It may never," Stamkos said recently. "I'm hoping one day you wake up and there's no little pain, no discomfort -- it just feels like a regular leg. I don't know if that's going to happen."
Although you wouldn't know it from his numbers. Stamkos had goals No. 9 and 10 in Sunday's 4-3 shootout win over Detroit, the Lightning's sixth straight victory. I really didn't expect the Bolts (11-3-1) to be this good yet. Maybe in a year as there is a lot of young talent on the team. Just think how much better Tampa Bay will be when star defenseman Victor Hedman returns from a fractured finger in a few weeks.The Lightning are +1000 to win the Stanley Cup and +450 to win the East at Bovada.
The Lightning have a great matchup at Chicago on Tuesday as the Hawks remain +750 Stanley Cup favorites. Chicago is a -147 opening favorite.
Detroit's best player, forward Pavel Datsyuk, has missed the past two games with a groin injury but did skate on Monday. He is hoping to return for Friday's game. Datsyuk missed the first two weeks of the season because of an injured shoulder, but he already has 10 points in eight games. The Wings don't even play again until Friday, so the schedule does them a favor.
About the last thing the Flyers needed was another injury on defense, but Luke Schenn will miss the next two weeks or so with a lower-body injury. Schenn was injured Saturday when he was hit into the end boards by Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon with 52.4 seconds remaining in the first period. Schenn has a goal and two points and is minus-5 in 14 games this season. The Flyers are also missing defensemen Andrew MacDonald (lower body) and Kimmo Timonen (blood clots).
Chicago's Patrick Sharp will miss another three weeks or so with a lower-body injury (NHL teams never tell you what's actually wrong). Sharp suffered the injury when he was hit into the boards against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period last Tuesday. Sharp has three goals, six assists and is third among the team's forwards with an average of 18:30 of ice time in 13 games this season. He led the Blackhawks with 78 points last season.
Ducks goalie John Gibson might have been in the conversation for the Calder Trophy that goes to the NHL's top rookie, but he's going to miss up to six weeks with a groin injury. He is 2-2-0 with a 2.28 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage in his first full NHL season.
Minnesota's Zach Parise is dealing with a concussion and has missed two straight games. He did practice on Monday but won't return Tuesday. Parise has four goals and 10 points in 11 games for the Wild, who have lost their past three games.
This Week's Games to Watch
Pittsburgh at NY Rangers, Tuesday : The Penguins opened as -140 favorites, and they are the hottest team in the NHL with a seven-game winning streak and an NHL-best plus-28 goals differential. Pittsburgh is No. 1 in scoring (4.2 goals per game) and No. 1 in power-play percentage (37.5). Crosby had five assists in Saturday's win against Buffalo. It was Crosby's first five-assist game since March 10, 2013. The Rangers have lost two straight and four of five. Of course, they beat Pittsburgh in last year's Eastern Conference semifinals, rallying from a 3-1 series deficit.
Los Angeles at Anaheim, Wednesday: The Kings and Ducks definitely don't like one another. Anaheim is tied for the NHL lead with 23 points and has just one regulation loss at home. That said, the Ducks offense is scuffling right now with 11 regulation goals over the past eight games. Corey Perry, who leads the NHL with 11 goals, has missed three straight games with the flu (come on, a hockey player sitting out with the flu!) but should play Wednesday.
Boston at Montreal, Thursday: If you don't get fired up whenever these Original Six rivals face off, then you simply don't like hockey. Boston is hoping to have top-line center David Krejci for this game. He sat out Monday and has missed five games this season with an ongoing undisclosed injury. This is a tough second of a back-to-back for the B's as they play in Toronto on Wednesday. Montreal won the only meeting thus far this season with Boston, 6-4 at home on Oct. 16. That's the most goals allowed this season by Boston. Bruins star goalie Tuukka Rask is just 3-11-3 in his career against Montreal.
Chicago at Detroit, Friday: One of the unfortunate consequences of the NHL's realignment last year was Detroit leaving the Western Conference for the East and thus now only playing blood-rival Chicago twice per season. I'm not sure why the Hawks remain Cup favorites, at least if you go by how playing currently. They haven't put together back-to-back wins since early in the season. Chicago does lead the NHL in goals-against and penalty killing.
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