Hot - Phoenix Coyotes - The Phoenix Coyotes are off to a great start this season and if this team did not play in the Pacific Division with the Dallas Stars, Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks, I would have them in the playoffs. The Coyotes made a brilliant acquisition this offseason bringing in center Olli Jokinen via trade to go along with the young core of Peter Mueller, Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker and Viktor Tikhonov on offense. In goal, the Coyotes have one of the brightest young goaltenders in the game in Ilya Bryzgalov, who put up dynamite numbers in Phoenix after the trade from Anaheim. Bryzgalov finished the season with a 2.42. goals against average and a save percentage of .921. The Coyotes will have some significant value this season, especially in those back-to-back situations against their Pacific Division opponents.

Hot - New York Rangers - The Rangers are off to their best start in 25 years at 4-0 SU and have shown that they can win in a variety of ways. New York was able to hold down a potent Tampa Bay offense in Prague as the Lightning could only manage two goals in two games. The Rangers offense seems to be improved with the acquisitions of forwards Markus Naslund and Nikolai Zherdev. Both players have put up four points in four games. Naslund has a goal and three assists and Zherdev has two goals and two assists. With Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist in net, who is already 3-0 with a 1.33 GAA and a save percentage of .944, the Rangers are going to have a shot to win every game they play. Look for the winning to continue with this team.

Cold - Tampa Bay Lightning - The Tampa Bay Lightning have been one of the most talked about teams this offseason because of a slew of moves via free agency, but none of it so far has translated into a win. The Lightning are 0-3 SU on the season despite signing Gary Roberts, Ryan Malone, Vaclav Prospal, and Radim Vrbata on offense while acquiring Matt Carle and Andre Meszaros on defense. Goalie Olaf Kolzig was signed to provide leadership to young goaltenders Mike Smith and Kari Ramo. It’s going to take this team a while to gel and get use to Barry Melrose’s offensive and defensive systems. Until I see some improvement, I’m staying away.

Cold - St. Louis Blues - Yes the Blues are 1-1 on the season heading into this week with a win in their home opener against Nashville, but they were blasted in their first road game by one of the worst teams in the league in the New York Islanders, 5-2. The injury bug has already started to hit this team as forward Lee Stempniak tweaked his left knee in their opener and will miss a few games and defensemen Barret Jackman is day-to-day with a groin injury. This is a team that is already without their best young defensemen, Erik Johnson, who injured himself getting out of a golf cart over the summer. Stay away from the Blues.

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Hot and Not
By Judd Hall

Just because the NHL season is barely a week old, doesn’t mean you can’t single out a couple of teams. A few clubs have jumped out of the gates to make us a nice chunk of change. Likewise, there are some squads that we’ve been able to fade.

Here are a few teams to keep an eye on for the remainder of this week.

On Fire…

You can’t start this list with any other team than the Rangers. New York made a paradigm shift in how they’d attack opponents on the ice by going on the attack, instead of the “defense first” that lead to two consecutive East Semifinal appearances. Additions like Markus Naslund from Vancouver and Nikolai Zherdev have paid dividends, pulling in three goals combined in the first five games. Even more impressive for the Blueshirts is that they’ve had 10 players tally at least one goal; they had 23 players do the same all of last year. Their special teams have been fantastic by not allowing a power play goal in 21 opportunities.

As far as betting goes, New York has the public up $510 on the money line during this 5-0-0 run. They’re even cashing tickets now on the puck line (win by more than 1 ½ goals) in their past three affairs.

The Blueshirts have two very winnable games on the schedule coming up as they get Sabres (Oct. 15) and the Maple Leafs (Oct. 17) at Madison Square Garden. But there will be a time to fade the Rangers soon as on Oct. 18 when they travel to Detroit to face the defending Stanley Cup champs. Then follow that tilt up against Sean Avery’s new team, Dallas.

On the West Coast, the Sharks have replaced their entire coaching staff after another postseason collapse. Enter Todd McLellan from the Red Wings to stand behind the bench. And so far, San Jose has yet to skip a beat by winning its first four contests of the regular season by a combined score of 13-4.

Now you’d think that the offense is carrying this club, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Evgeni Nabokov is a goaltender that has been one of the best in the league over the last few seasons. The only problem was him bearing most of the workload. Last year, Nabokov played in 77 games to lead all netminders in that category with Martin Brodeur of the Devils. This year, he’s getting some help by veteran backstop Brian Boucher.

San Jose’s upcoming schedule would be a challenge to most clubs. But the Sharks have a 4-2-3 mark against Anaheim (Oct. 17) dating back to last season, and have already beaten them thoroughly once this year. A rare home-and-home with a East Coast squad in the Flyers could prove a spot to fade McLellan’s club in the second match of that series.

Ice Cold…

The Lightning made wholesale changes during the offseason so they could get back into the elite level they were at just a few years ago. Their offense hasn’t looked fluid at all this year, scoring just five goals in three tilts. I will grant you that it is because there are new elements to the club and chemistry is slowing growing in the locker room. You could also try to say Barry Melrose’s team is still lagging from their European Swing, but that doesn’t hold water to me when you see how well the Rangers have performed after coming home from Prague.

Things don’t appear to be getting easier for Tampa Bay right now with games against the Wild (Oct. 18) and Sharks (Oct. 25). That doesn’t mean the Lightning will stay winless this month since they get to play the lowly Islanders and Thrashers.

Joe Sakic made a lot of people happy when he announced he’d come back for another season with the Avalanche. I’m willing to bet that Sakic is regretting his decision after Colorado has lost its first three games this year. To be fair though, the Avs have been finding the net at a good pace, averaging 3.3 goals per game so far.

Colorado is floundering right now because of Peter Budaj’s shoddy goaltending. Budaj has been in net for all three defeats with a 4.38 goals against average, while stopping 82.4 percent of the shots fired his way. No word yet if Andrew Raycroft will be getting a shot in goal yet in the near future.

Bettors will do well to fade the Avs a little bit more as they’ll be facing a road game against tough Flyers squad. Then they get a quick Pacific Division road trip to play at Dallas and at Los Angeles.


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