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  1. NHL

NHL: Weekend Preview

The weekend opens with Minnesota Wild at Boston Bruins with the away team desperate to turn around a poor start.

The Wild (+2800 to win the Stanley Cup) have gone 1-3-0 over four games with goaltending being a particular area of concern.

Minnesota were forced to trade Cam Talbot away to Ottawa Senators in the off-season after he lost the starter role to Marc-Andre Fleury, acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks last season.

Fleury, 37-years-old and a three-time Stanley Cup Champion with Pittsburgh Penguins, has struggled in three starts with a .813 save-percentage and 5.96 GAA.

His new partner Filip Gustavsson, 24, who joined as part of Talbot's trade to the Senators has also done little to inspire confidence posting a .860 save-percentage and .506 GAA.

Whoever starts against the Bruins will need to be significantly better than what they have showed so far if the Wild are to have any chance of victory.

Boston (+1400 to win the Stanley Cup) under new coach Jim Montgomery lead the NHL for goals (23) and have won four of their five games so far. Minnesota are -105 to be victorious and the Bruins -115.

Clash of the titans

The headline fixture of the weekend comes on Saturday night as the reigning Stanley Cup Champions Colorado Avalanche (+500 to win the retain the championship) travel to T-Mobile Arena to face the in-form Vegas Golden Knights (+1400 to win the Stanley Cup).

Vegas have hit the ground running in 2022/23 with four wins from five games which is a welcome opening for an expectant franchise who stunningly missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs completely last season.

The start under new coach Bruce Cassidy (formerly of Boston Bruins) has been helped by the return to fitness and form of several star players including centre Jack Eichel who has looked back to his very best after recovering from artificial disk replacement surgery.

The 25-year-old was acquired from the Buffalo Sabres last season and leads the Golden Knights with five points (three goals, two assists).

Eichel and Vegas' other star-studded cast will need to be at their peak on Saturday as the Avalanche (2-2-1) look to bounce back from a surprise 3-2 defeat to Seattle Kraken on Friday. With little to choose between the teams, the odds are an even -110 for each to win.

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Battle of contenders

Two other teams with legitimate Stanley Cup expectations meet at the same time on Saturday as the Carolina Hurricanes (+1000 to win the Stanley Cup) travel to Calgary to take on the Flames (+1100) at Scotiabank Arena.

Both teams (3-1-0) head into the game looking to put right a first defeat of the season, Calgary 6-3 to the Buffalo Sabres and Carolina 6-4 to the Edmonton Oilers.

Assuming both start as expected, the goalie match-up draws intrigue with Jacob Markstrom seeking to find his best form against Frederik Andersen who has begun the season strong after missing the playoffs last season through injury.

The 33-year-old Andersen has posted a .920 save-percentage and 2.35 goals-against-average (GAA) in three starts while Markstrom, 32, has delivered well below his average with a .862 save-percentage and 3.43 in his three games.

Islanders seeking return to contender-ship

In 2019/20 and 2020/21 the New York Islanders were denied a place in the Stanley Cup Final by the Tampa Bay Lightning who beat them consecutively in the Eastern Conference Final before going on to lift the championship.

The pair of narrow Final misses still haunt the Islanders, who remarkably missed the playoffs entirely last season. With little change of the roster, a road win over their old foes on Saturday would help send a message that the Islanders (+3500 to win the Stanley Cup) should be considered contenders once again.

A defeat for either side would be damaging, with the Islanders needing to better their .500 record to start the season if they are to right the wrongs of last season and the Lightning desperate to improve on a 2-3-0 which currently sees them at the bottom of the Atlantic Division.

The Islanders, who also face the Florida Panthers on Sunday are +145 to pull off victory against Tampa Bay and the Lightning -165.

Robinson out to impress for Leafs

The 21-year-old Nick Robertson will be aiming to cement his place in the Toronto Maple Leafs' line-up on Saturday against Canadian rivals Winnipeg Jets.

The second-round pick in 2019 scored eight points in pre-season but due to salary cap constraints was disappointed to be sent down to the minors ahead of the season.

Following a bumpy 2-2-0 start, which included a defeat to lowly Arizona Coyotes, the Leafs (+850 to win the Stanley Cup) had little choice but to bring Robinson back up in attempt to spark a stuttering offence.

That he did, scoring twice including the 3-2 overtime winner against his brother, Jason and the Dallas Stars. All eyes will be on him again Saturday night, as he aims to remain in the NHL for the long-term and help the Leafs to a -165 victory.

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