Defending champs overcoming health issues

Defending champs overcoming abundant health issues

Washington’s recent slide has provided a glimmer of hope for Pittsburgh in the Metropolitan Division race. But can the Pens avoid a letdown tonight against lowly New Jersey?

The two Eastern Conference combatants will drop the puck at 7 p.m. in the Steel City. Online sports book Bovada.lv gives Mike Sullivan’s club odds of -270 to take care of business at home. Conversely, the Devils enter PPG Paints Arena as +230 underdogs.

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Sidney Crosby & Co. just completed a 3-1-1 swing through Western Canada to pull within three points of the first-place Capitals. The road trip was particularly impressive considering Pittsburgh’s injury-depleted roster. Valuable defensemen Kris Letang, Trevor Daley and Olli Maatta, along with forwards Patric Hornqvist and Bryan Rust, all remain sidelined at the moment. Yet the Penguins (43-17-9) still managed to throttle Winnipeg and Vancouver up north.

Meanwhile, New Jersey (26-31-12) at least continues to improve its draft position. John Hynes’ crew did, however, bust out for six goals in Thursday’s triumph over Philadelphia. Adam Henrique notched two of those tallies, pushing his season total to 18.

Bet on the Action

If Crosby really wants to gain ground in the NHL scoring race, this would seem like an ideal opportunity to do so. The Devils have allowed at least three markers in six of their past eight games. The squad’s also botched two straight trips to Pennsylvania, so make the logical decision here.

FRIDAY NHL FREE PICK: PENGUINS -1.5

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