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Reply To: NHL • Tuesday Service Plays • 12/1/15

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NHL bettors should track Penguins’ make-or-break road trip
By Scott Rickenbach

The NHL season is past the quarter mark and bettors have a good idea of what teams are bringing to the ice each night. Scott Rickenbach breaks down the teams hockey bettors should keep an eye on – some good, some bad – for this week’s NHL schedule.

Team to watch: Arizona Coyotes (13-9-1)

The Coyotes took advantage of a three-game home stand with a trio of wins, hauling in 3.19 units during that streak. Arizona has been playing well this month, winning seven of its last 10 contests thanks to an efficient offense that has netted an average of three goals a night in that span.

The Desert Dogs put this hot streak to the test with an extended road trip, starting in Nashville Tuesday. Arizona plays five games in the run of eight days, with the likes of Detroit and St. Louis on the slate but also winnable matchups in Buffalo and Carolina. Arizona won just once on a recent four-game road swing, so there is a high-risk, high-reward aspect with the Coyotes on this trek.

Team in trouble: Pittsburgh Penguins (13-8-2)

The Penguins are stumbling at the wrong time. Pittsburgh has lost back-to-back heart breakers to Columbus and Edmonton, two teams it should easily handle, and now crosses the map for an extended West Coast road trip, which opens Tuesday in San Jose. The Pens schedule is a little split up on this trip, with only one back-to-back crunch, against Los Angeles and Anaheim on Dec. 5 and 6.

Pittsburgh is in a bad place right now. There’s a supposed rift between star Sidney Crosby and owner and former Penguins great Mario Lemieux and talk that head coach Mike Johnston has lost his dressing room, with players starting to point fingers at one another. This upcoming road trip will either bring the Penguins closer together or tear them apart.

Total team: Colorado Avalanche (13-9-1 Over/Under)

Steady Over bets are hard to come by in this day’s NHL. Colorado has been that rare bread in recent games, riding an 8-1 Over/Under streak into Tuesday’s game in New Jersey. The Avalanche will be playing the second of back-to-back nights against the Devils, after posting another Over winner against New York Monday.

Colorado, which is among the top scoring teams in the NHL with three goals a night, has allowed four or more goals in five of its last seven as of Tuesday and as long as the Avs are bleeding goals like that, they should hold their Over value. New Jersey, New York and Minnesota (the team’s next three road opponents) are all considered Under teams by hockey bettors. That should keep totals in check and keep the cost of the Over down at the sportsbook.

Injury to note: Derek Stepan, New York Rangers

The Rangers were hoping Stepan wouldn’t miss significant time after a hard hit in the loss to Boston Friday injured the center’s ribs. However, New York is putting a 4-6 week timetable on Stepan, who has 12 points on the season (6 goals, 6 assists).

The Rangers missed his offense energy in a 3-0 loss to Philadelphia but managed to put points up against the lowly Hurricanes Monday. The Blueshirts have upcoming games with some high-scoring opponents (Islanders, Avalanche, Senators, Canucks), so that lack of scoring depth could be magnified in that span.

Schedule to watch: Boston Bruins (13-8-1)

The Bruins are one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now, winning five in a row to the tune of 4.2 units in the bank. However, the schedule could give Boston a frosty dousing. The Bruins have been put on ice by being kept off the ice, having not seen action since Friday night. They finally get back to it Wednesday in Edmonton.

That game against the Oilers drops the puck on a stretch of five games in eight days, four of which come on the road. Boston travels to Calgary and Vancouver for back-to-back dates Friday and Saturday, then zooms home to host Nashville Monday before hitting the road again Wednesday, rekindling its rivalry with Montreal. It will be interesting to see: 1. If the long layoff has chilled the Bruins’ winning streak. 2. How their moneyline prices will be dictated after that game in Edmonton.