at PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Puck drops: Thursday, 7:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Pittsburgh -170, Philadelphia +150, Total: 6
The brand new Consol Energy Center will play host to the defending Eastern Conference Champions as the Penguins look to start a quest that many seem to think will lead to their second Stanley Cup in three years. History will be repeating itself in Pittsburgh as the Penguins also hosted the Flyers when they opened the Igloo on November 4, 1967.
The Flyers will look to Brian Boucher to handle the net while last year’s playoff sensation Michael Leighton recovers from a back injury that will keep him out at least two weeks. Chris Pronger will also miss the opener due to his off-season knee surgery. Look for second-year player Ville Leino to build on his brilliant playoff performance last season when he tied the NHL record for most points by a rookie with 21. Leino will join Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell on a line that scored 11 goals and had a plus-12 rating when they were put together for the first time in the postseason last year. NFL betting lines.
The Penguins will be without talented third-line center Jordan Staal. The Selke Trophy finalist last season will miss a few months with a foot infection. They will have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby however, as those two love beating up on the Flyers. Crosby and Malkin have combined for 13 goals and 34 points in the last two seasons against the Flyers, as the Penguins are 9-3-0 over that span.
The Penguins should come out flying (no pun intended) and will be hungry to start the season on a high note in their new building. The FoxSheets show that PITTSBURGH is 28-17 (+9.9 Units) against the spread versus PHILADELPHIA since 1996, including a 6-3 mark (+0.8 Units) over the last 3 seasons.
The pick is Pittsburgh.
DETROIT RED WINGS
at CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Puck drops: Saturday, 8:30 p.m. EDT
For the first time since 1961 the Chicago Blackhawks will be taking the ice at home as defending Stanley Cup champions. Their opponent on this night could not be any more perfect than their arch-rival Detroit Red Wings. Football odds.
The Hawks lost many key players that helped them win the Cup due to salary cap restrictions. Players like Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, John Madden, Colin Fraser and Brent Sopel are all gone this season and replaced by players that don’t have the Stanley Cup pedigree these others had. In goal, the Hawks will rely on veteran Marty Turco after letting Antti Niemi go to free agency after he was rewarded more money through arbitration. Turco is solid, but has been on a slow decline the last few seasons. Despite a solid young core that includes Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane and a terrific defensive core led by Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith, the Hawks are picked to finish behind the Wings in the Central. Chicago will also be without defenseman Brian Campbell who will miss a month with a sprained knee.
The Wings still have the same talent that has seen them post 10 consecutive 100-point seasons. This year’s version of the Wings contains eight core players that are 35 and older, including Mike Modano who was brought in from Dallas in the offseason.
Last season the Wings won two of the three games in Chicago, including an OT win. The Hawks are younger and have more speed and should have a significant emotional edge raising the Stanley Cup banner to carry them to a victory.
The pick is Chicago.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
at WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Puck drops: Saturday, 7:00 p.m. EDT
Two of the teams that are picked to contend for the Eastern Conference title will battle Saturday in the nation’s capital.
The Capitals finished the 2009-10 season by winning the Presidents’ Trophy, but were shocked in the first round of the playoffs by the Montreal Canadiens. After taking a 3-1 series lead, the Caps scored just three goals the rest of the series. They will most likely be without starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov who was placed on IR in the preseason. If Varlamov can’t go, then head coach Bruce Boudreau will decide between Michal Neuvirth and Dany Sabourin.
The Devils were also ousted in the first round of the playoffs last season, losing in five games to the eventual Eastern Conference champions. After a battle with the NHL over his contract, Ilya Kovalchuk is expected to deliver big time after signing a 15-year, $100 million dollar deal. Kovalchuk has averaged 42 goals per season over his eight-year career.
Because of the Kovalchuk signing, the Devils had to shed roughly $3.5 million to get under the league’s $59.4 million cap limit. They will open the season with a 20-man roster, three below the league limit. “This is just our opening day roster,” GM Lou Lamoriello said Wednesday night after the league approved the final roster. “We will start with 20 people. Rosters can change from day to day and Albany is only an hour and three quarters away so when time is on your side, you use it.” Football spreads.
The Devils won three of the four meetings with the Capitals last season. Despite the Devils being undermanned starting the season, the Caps will have a rough time winning without Varlamov who went 15-4 last season. Martin Brodeur owns the Caps, posting a 36-13-4 record with a 2.15 GAA and 6 shutouts in his 53 career starts.
The pick is New Jersey.