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This week the Kings host the Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings
  1. NHL

NHL: Midweek preview

The much-fancied St. Louis Blues are having a season to forget so far and must turn things around quickly before they fall too far out of the playoff picture.

The Blues, -105 to make the post-season and +4500 to win the Stanley Cup, have lost six in a row and will aim to snap the unwanted streak against the high-flying Boston Bruins (10-2-0) on Tuesday before a meeting with San Jose Sharks (3-8-2) on Friday.

The Blues finished third in the Central Division last season (49-22-11) before beating the Minnesota Wild in the playoffs. Optimism remained high despite a second-round defeat to eventual champions Colorado Avalanche, especially given the stunning playoff performance of netminder Jordan Binnington.

The 29-year-old posted a .949 save percentage in six games, showing the form which helped the Blues win the Stanley Cup in 2019.

St. Louis can take heart from that championship season as they held the league's worst record (15-18-4) before hiring current coach Craig Berube and promoting Binnington from their AHL farm team, and from then they went on a stunning 30-10-5 run which saw them make the playoffs and then go on to lift the cup.

Kings continue progress

Before they head on a road trip through Canada next week, the Los Angeles Kings have a four-game home stanza which has already begun with a 5-4 win over last season’s Presidents’ Trophy winning Florida Panthers.

This week the Kings host the Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings and have the chance to improve on their 7-6-1 record which places them third in the Pacific Division and -150 to claim a playoff spot.

Los Angeles finished third last season with a 44-27-11 record and made their first appearance in the playoffs for three seasons.

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Their solid progression has been helped by the breakthrough of 23-year-old centre Gabriel Vilardi who they selected in the first round, 11th overall in 2017.

With nine goals in 14 games, Vilardi is already just one away from beating his ten best set in 2020/21 over 54 games.

Kevin Fiala, acquired from the Minnesota Wild, has also added to the Kings’ offence scoring 14 points (three goals, 11 assists) which has helped them score an NHL second best 49 times.

Battle of New York

The Rangers and Islanders will again battle for New York bragging rights on Thursday at Madison Square Garden.

Rangers (6-4-3) picked up a point in a 3-2 defeat to the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday to take a one-point lead over their local rivals (7-5-0) and jump ahead of them into third place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Islanders (14 points) have the chance to move ahead of the Rangers (15 points) again with a home game against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday before the two collide.

The goalie battle will prove pivotal with Islanders’ outstanding Igor Sorokin coming up against the current holder of the Vezina Trophy, Igor Shesterkin of the Rangers.

The 27-year-old Sorokin is 5-3-0 with a .933 save percentage and 2.21 goals-against-average (GAA) while 26-year-old Shesterkin is 6-1-2 with a .916 save percentage and 2.41 GAA.

Leafs relying on Källgren

The Toronto Maple Leafs (7-4-2) host the hottest team in the NHL, Vegas Golden Knights (11-2-0) on Wednesday and they will again be heavily reliant on third choice netminder Erik Källgren to produce a big performance.

With number-one Matt Murray already recovering from a groin injury, the Leafs lost his second in command Ilya Samsonov with a knee injury in a 2-1 win over Boston Bruins on Saturday.

Third-choice Källgren came in for the third period to record the victory and he again grabbed a win on Sunday making 29 saves in a 3-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

Vegas (+350 to win the Stanley Cup) have scored the fourth most goals in the league (46) and conceded a joint least 27. So, Källgren and the Leafs have a tough task at hand, but the same was said ahead of the weekend where they found a way against to teams expected to challenge for the cup and rose their own odds back to +333.

Make or break for Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks have had a well-documented difficult start to the NHL season (3-6-3).

But this week they have the chance to build on their better recent form against two Canadian rivals who are also performing below par, Ottawa Senators and Montreal Canadiens.

Vancouver are +250 to do what they were unable last season and recover from a slow start to make the playoffs.

If they are to retain hope, positive results against Ottawa (4-7-0) on Wednesday and Montreal (5-6-1) on Thursday are a must.

Hoping to fire the Canucks past the two sides that prop up the Atlantic Division is forward Bo Horvat who, despite Vancouver’s issues, has scored 10 goals in 12 games which ranks joint second in the league.

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