NHL Hockey Odds and Picks: Scouting the Week Ahead
by Alan Matthews - 2/9/2015
A few weeks ago when I looked at updated NHL futures odds, I thought the New York Rangers were great betting value to win the Eastern Conference for a second straight season. I no longer think that following the serious injury suffered by Blueshirts star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
King Henrik was hit in the throat with a shot last Saturday against Carolina and is out indefinitely with a "blood vessel injury." He won't even be re-evaluated for 2-3 weeks. Lundqvist had been 16-4-0 with a 1.82 goals against average in his last 20 games and is 25-11-3 overall this season. Lundqvist hopes to return before the start of the playoffs but he's going to need time to get into shape because for the next three weeks or so he can do nothing more than light aerobic exercise and bike work.
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"If I keep playing, I run a big risk of having a stroke," Lundqvist said Sunday, speaking for the first time since learning he would be sidelined for a significant stretch for the first time in his career. "That's why you have to make sure you play this one safe. … You can't take a risk on this. If it was a sore shoulder I'd probably be playing in a week or something. Here, I just have to listen to the doctors because it's that serious."
Oddly, he actually finished that Carolina game and then even started the next game after that. However, then he started having headaches, doctors took a closer look and found a sprained blood vessel. Lundqvist says he won't back until he is "100 percent" healed, at which point the injury will present no further risk.
The Rangers have a pretty good backup in Cam Talbot, but it's still a pretty clear drop-off. And if Talbot were to get hurt as well, the team would be in a world of hurt. New York enters Tuesday's game in Toronto on a two-game losing streak. The Rangers are now 6/1 at Bovada to win the East and 14/1 to win the Stanley Cup. The Rangers, with 65 points, currently hold the No. 1 wild-card spot in the East.
Evander Kane's career as a Winnipeg Jet might be over, and for sure his season is. The 23-year-old winger has a world of talent but apparently is a knucklehead who has infuriated his teammates and coaches.
Last Tuesday, Kane showed up to a team meeting in Vancouver, his hometown, in a track suit, a violation of the team's dress code. After the meeting, Kane either worked out or went to the trainers' office, taking off his track suit. According to the Winnipeg Free Press, teammate Dustin Byfuglien threw Kane's clothes into a cold tub "to send a message to his teammate." That irked Kane; he left the rink and didn't travel on the team's bus to the arena for a pregame meeting. Team officials were unable to get him on the phone for most of the day, and when they did, a half-hour before the game, he told them he would not be playing. The Jets made Kane a healthy scratch in his hometown.
On Thursday, Kane missed practice to meet with team doctors about a shoulder problem and the club placed him on injured reserve, which could have meant just a few games missed. But on Friday, Jets coach Paul Maurice announced Kane would be undergoing surgery on his shoulder to fix a damaged labrum and miss 4-6 months. The thinking is that Kane is pouting and thus chose surgery -- and it was his call -- when he easily could have played through the injury and gotten it fixed after the season. Reporters asked Maurice if Kane's decision was fallout from that incident. "That's a question for Evander," the coach said, which is saying nothing but yet everything.
Kane has 10 goals and 12 assists this season. He looked like a potential superstar in 2011-12 when he scored a career-high 30 goals but hasn't come close to that number since. The Jets seem likely to trade him now, even though they'd be selling low. There will be plenty of suitors. Winnipeg entered the All-Star Break on fire but has come out of it losing six of seven. The Jets are -128 on BookMaker for Tuesday's home game with Minnesota.
Flyers goalie Steve Mason is expected to miss at least three games with a lower-body injury. He was hurt Sunday against Washington. Mason is 11-12-7 with a 2.27 GAA and .925 save percentage. To make things worse, Rob Zepp, whom the Flyers have recalled twice before this season, is also hurt. Zepp was a capable backup, going 3-1 with a .889 save percentage and 2.92 goals-against average. That leaves Ray Emery as the starter this week, and the team has recalled 21-year-old Anthony Stolarz. He has never played an NHL game, so the Flyers better hope Emery stays healthy. Philly is a +160 underdog Tuesday at Montreal.
Minnesota's Matt Cooke will miss six weeks or so after having sports hernia surgery. The winger has four goals and four assists.
The Islanders are really feeling the injury bug. Forward Kyle Okposo, the team's second-leading scorer, is expected to miss at least another month with an upper-body injury. Fellow forward Michael Grabner was hurt over the weekend and has been placed on injured reserve. He has five goals and two assists.
This Week's Games to Watch
Tampa Bay at Nashville, Tuesday: It's a potential Stanley Cup Finals preview as the Lightning make their only visit of the regular season to Nashville. The Predators opened as -138 favorites. Tampa Bay leads the Eastern Conference with 73 points, while surprising Nashville leads the NHL with 76 points entering this week. The Bolts are 5/1 favorites with the Islanders and Penguins to win the East, while the Predators are only 6/1 fourth-favorites to take the West. Nashville rookie Filip Forsberg is a Calder Trophy candidate. He had his 18th goal in Sunday's win over the Panthers and beat Roberto Luongo for the shootout winner. Forsberg has at least one point in five straight games. He leads NHL rookies with 48 points.
Detroit at Pittsburgh, Wednesday: This one is nationally televised by the NBC Sports Network. The Penguins come in licking their wounds as they were crushed 5-0 in Vancouver on Saturday night. The Red Wings have won three straight games and have just one loss in their past 10 games. So much for missing goalie Jimmy Howard. He might actually return for this game. Howard hasn't played since Jan. 10 due to a groin injury. The Wings won the lone meeting with Pittsburgh thus far, 4-3 in overtime on Oct. 23 in Motown.
Toronto at Montreal, Saturday: The Canadiens are the best hope for Canada to bring a Stanley Cup home for the first time in more than two decades. Montreal beat Boston on Sunday 3-1 to complete the series sweep. With two straight wins and seven in their past 10 games, the Canadiens trail the Atlantic Division-leading Lightning by only two points. The Leafs are a disaster, although they did end an 11-game losing streak on Saturday. It was only the team's second win under interim coach Peter Horachek. He benched David Clarkson for that game, making the disappointing Clarkson a healthy scratch for the first time since he signed with the Leafs in the summer of 2013. He could be traded.
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