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Juraj Slafkovsky is one of the hottest talents around
  1. NHL

NHL Midweek preview

Pittsburgh Penguins can weigh up their Stanley Cup chances against two other expected contenders, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, when they begin a four-game road trip through Canada.

Pittsburgh have yet to be defeated this season (4-0-1) and their nine points ranks joint-second behind the Boston Bruins (10) who have played a game more.

The Penguins’ +15 goal-differential leads the NHL and their 26 goals scored is just one behind the Bruins’ best of 27.

Captain Sidney Crosby is leading by example with a team-topping 10 points (three goals, seven assists) and the Penguins have also enjoyed excellent goaltending from Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith.

Jarry (4-0-0) has a .941 save-percentage and 2.01 goals-against-average (GAA) while DeSmith posted a .923 save-percentage and 2.85 GAA in his single start (0-0-1).

The pair will likely both see ice time this week and will need to continue to be at their best to contain Oilers pair Connor McDavid (10 points; five goals, five assists) and Leon Draisaitl (eight points; two goals, six assists) and the Flames’ high-octane offence, currently led by Nazem Kadri (six points; two goals, four assists) and Tyler Toffoli (five points; three goals, two assists).

The Penguins are +100 to get their road trip off to a winning start on Tuesday in Edmonton and a pair of good results this week would do their cup confidence the world of good.

Big week for Rangers

New York Rangers face off against the Stanley Cup Champions Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday before the first battle of New York in 2022/23 against the Islanders on Thursday.

The Rangers (+1500 to win the Stanley Cup) are 3-2-1 to begin the season and after two straight defeats to lowly San Jose Sharks and Columbus Blue Jackets are desperate to bounce back and prove their seriousness to be considered a contender for the cup.

Rangers forward Artemi Panarin leads the NHL with 12 points (four goals, eight assists) and their 20 goals (3.33 per-game) is more than respectable, however they have also conceded 20 which has proven costly.

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Netminder Igor Shesterkin won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie last season after he posted a whopping .935 save-percentage and 2.07 GAA in 53 starts.

This season, his numbers have fallen to .901 and 2.75 GAA and his back-up Jaroslav Halak hasn’t offered too much help either with a .852 save-percentage and 4.03 GAA in two defeats.

The Rangers were criticised on their run to the Eastern Conference for relying too heavily on their goaltending, and while that clearly needs to be better, they must prove that they can produce results without heroics in net.

Dahlin hopes to continue record run

Buffalo Sabres defenceman Rasmus Dahlin has scored in five straight games, an NHL record for a blue-liner to open an NHL season. On Wednesday he will have the opportunity to extend that record in Seattle against the Kraken.

The 22-year-old Swede was the first-overall pick by the Sabres in the 2018 NHL draft and with eight points (five goals, three assists) through five games leads all NHL defencemen.

His form has helped Buffalo to a 4-1-0 start which includes wins in the first games of a season-long, four-game road trip which concludes against the Kraken.

The Sabres haven’t qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 11 seasons but have used that time to re-build through high draft picks and the project appears to be coming to fruition.

After a difficult start to last season, Buffalo ended as one of the hottest teams in the league, and that form has continued into the new season making them an interesting +320 to end their NHL record drought.

Blues aim to remain perfect

The St. Louis Blues (+1800 to win the Stanley Cup) have benefited from a light schedule to start the season and are the only team left to remain perfect with three wins from three.

This week they will play catch up with three games in four days against the Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers and Nashville Predators.

If the Blues were to win all three, they would beat their franchise record of five wins to open a season which they set last year.

St. Louis’ hot start has been helped by the return to fitness of goalie Jordan Binnington who was frustratedly injured in their second-round playoff exit to the Colorado Avalanche last season.

The cup winner with the Blues in 2019 has started all three games with an outstanding .940 save-percentage and 1.65 GAA, which has assisted in a 100% penalty-killing effort so far.

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