Defending champs try to make do sans Crosby

Defending champs try to make do sans Crosby

With their captain sidelined by a concussion, are the Penguins still capable of knocking off the always formidable Capitals?

Mike Sullivan’s squad begins its Stanley Cup defense tonight, with an 8 pm. ET faceoff against the Metropolitan Division stalwarts. Online sports book Bovada.lv gives Washington odds of -115 to spoil Pittsburgh’s banner-raising festivities. Conversely, the Pens represent -105 underdogs.

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What seemed like one of the season’s marquee matchups when schedules were first released now lacks a little starpower. That’s because Sidney Crosby remains sidelined due to a concussion. The two-time NHL MVP skated Tuesday, though, and followed up with drills the next morning.

As it currently stands, Evgeni Malkin must function as the host team’s primary playmaker. He himself missed 25 contests in 2015-16, but the Russian standout has averaged 1.18 points per game during his career. While Malkin will occupy a line with Phil Kessell, Matt Cullen figures to jump into Crosby’s usual spot alongside Patric Hornqvist and Conor Sheary.

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For the Capitals, they’re aiming to extinguish the overcome yet another spring disappointment. Despite amassing 120 points a year ago, Barry Trotz’s squad fell in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Yet Alex Ovechkin and the bulk of his supporting cast are back for another run at that elusive silver chalice.

This evening, Ovechkin hopes to bombard Penguins netminder Marc Andre-Fleury. The veteran starts his 11th consecutive season opener for the Steel City. We think he’ll be solid enough to keep the club in this contest. Bank on a tight affair between two very familiar rivals.

 

THURSDAY NHL FREE PICK: PENGUINS +1.5

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