This week's NHL games to watch
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I preview some of the marquee NHL games each week taking place between Thursday and Sunday, targeting some interesting betting spots and looking for potential value with undervalued sides and totals.
Pittsburgh Penguins @ Edmonton Oilers
Friday, Dec. 20, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT
The Edmonton Oilers started the season strong but have come back down to earth in recent games. They were on a 1-3-1 slide entering Wednesday night’s game at St. Louis. The Oilers have struggled 5-on-5 at both ends of the ice. The power play has been their only consistent source of offense, and their defense and penalty kill have really had problems. The Oilers had surrendered 26 goals over their last seven games, averaging nearly four goals per game allowed during that span. Pittsburgh keeps finding ways to get the job done despite injuries to Sidney Crosby, Nick Bjugstad and Patric Hornqvist. The Penguins were 8-3 in their last 11 games heading into Tuesday night’s clash at Calgary, even with all that artillery out of the lineup. They’ve managed to keep winning with a defensive-minded philosophy that has resulted in shutouts in three of their last five victories. They are also getting contributions from the bottom of the lineup as multiple players have chipped in offensively. Pittsburgh hadn’t played well on the road at 5-8, though that is offset by Edmonton’s 8-9 home record. Pittsburgh lost in overtime at home to Edmonton on Nov. 2 despite heavily outplaying the Oilers. The Penguins are displaying a better and much more structured team game right now than the Oilers, which has me leaning toward the Penguins.
Arizona Coyotes @ Detroit Red Wings
Sunday, Dec. 22, 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT
I picked this as one of my “Games to Watch” even though it involves the worst team in the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings, because the Arizona Coyotes are truly worth talking about from a betting perspective. The Coyotes just landed Taylor Hall in a trade with the New Jersey Devils. It’s a clear sign that management has faith in the Coyotes to do something special and make a deep playoff run. Hall makes them better offensively, and I expect that to show in the short term. Arizona was already starting to improve its goal scoring with three or more goals in four of its last seven games before the trade — despite being thought of as a low-scoring, defensive-minded team. The new-look Coyotes should be able to score against the Red Wings, who are allowing 3.9 goals per game, dead last at 31st in the NHL. On the flip side, Detroit’s offensive prowess should improve with the recent return of top-line forward Anthony Mantha from injury. He has 24 points and is second on the team in points despite missing time due to injury. His return should bolster the Red Wings up front. The Coyotes’ game totals are usually lined at 5.5, but with the recent acquisition of Hall, I think there will be some value to bet Coyotes games Over the total, including Sunday night when they face the Red Wings in the Motor City.
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