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CROSBY’S PENGUINS ARE 6-TO-1 CUP FAVORITES
Fri, 17 Sep 2010 06:03 PM EDT

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

2009-10 record: 47-28-7, 101 points, 4th place in Eastern Conference

OFFENSE
The most recognizable name in hockey ranks among the scoring leaders year in and year out. Many might nominate Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin as the best player in the NHL, but Sidney Crosby, who has scored more than 100 points in four of his first five seasons, is the one with a Cup to his credit and the one who makes his teammates better. Evgeni Malkin (77 points) is no slouch and also one of the top-10 players in the league, so they make a dynamic duo that is better than any other top two-some. Pittsburgh’s tragic flaw is its lack of scoring from its supporting cast, which will be worse now that Bill Guerin was not brought back and center Jordan Staal (49 points) will miss the start of the season with a foot infection. Baseball Scores

DEFENSE
The Penguins actually improved their defense despite losing All-Star Sergei Gonchar to free agency. The Pens got younger and deeper by signing two above-average defensemen to take Gonchar’s place. Paul Martin was limited to 22 games with the New Jersey Devils last season because of a broken arm, but he is one of the most underrated all-around defensemen in the sport. Zbynek Michalek is no Paul Coffey with the puck, but makes his money using his mobility and intelligence to shut down snipers. With Alex Goligoski (37 points) and Kris Letang (27 points) manning the power play, and heavy-hipped Brooks Orpik pounding opposing forwards, the Penguins will be better than most along the blue line. Basketball Scores

GOALTENDING
Marc-Andre Fleury comes off an up-and-down season that saw him steer clear of injury (career-high 66 starts) but post a sub-par goals-against-average (2.65) and save percentage (.905). His playoff performance left a lot to be desired, too, as he allowed numerous soft goals that helped the Penguins get ousted by the Montreal Canadiens. He needs to play like he did during Pittsburgh’s two Cup finals runs. NFL Scores

TEAM OUTLOOK
As long as Crosby and Malkin continue to play All-Star hockey — and last season that was not always the case for Malkin — the Penguins should be one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. Only injuries to their superstars or a playoff fiasco like last year’s can derail them.

Sportsbook.com Odds to Win Stanley Cup: 6-to-1

NOTABLE OFF-SEASON MOVES
Newcomers – D Paul Martin, D Zbynek Michalek, RW Arron Asham, C Mike Comrie
Departures – D Sergei Gonchar, D Mark Eaton, LW Alexei Ponikarovsky, RW Bill Guerin, LW Ruslan Fedotenko


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