Stanley Cup odds: League-leading Capitals now the favorites

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Have you ever ended a relationship out of boredom to go in search of something new, only to realize what a great thing you had with your ex?

The early stages of the relationship were new, exciting, and passionate. Then, over time - it could have been weeks, months, years - you got bored for no real reason and ended things so you could chase that feeling again?

Now you're back on the open market looking for someone to give you exactly what you just had. But once you realize that, it's too late. What you had is gone and your ex is doing great. They're onto bigger and better things while you sit with the lights off in your basement listening to Radiohead, wondering how you could be so naive.

The Washington Capitals are that ex.

Following a first-round playoff exit and a quiet offseason, the Capitals began the year at a very reasonably priced 20-1 to win the Stanley Cup. Nine teams had shorter odds than the 2018 champions and perennial cup contenders.

Instead of capitalizing on that value by betting on a squad that's always among the last handful of teams still playing in late-April, people were too busy searching for something new and exciting. One of the most heavily bet teams this offseason, because of all the moves they made, was the New Jersey Devils. The price got driven all the way to 25-1. There's not one person holding a Devils futures ticket that doesn't have a considerable degree of regret.

Essentially, the betting public was digging for the next Washington Capitals, only the current Washington Capitals hadn't gone anywhere. The market was slow to adjust and now all the value is gone.

The Capitals are the current Cup favorites in most spots, with their odds shortening to as low as 5-1 in some places following a scorching 13-2-4 start to the season - the best in the league.

While you missed the boat with Washington, there's still time to hitch your wagon to few other teams before the value is gone.

Value picks

Dallas Stars (25-1)

The price on the Stars was too short in September with them being somewhat of a popular preseason pick, but the value has been restored after they stumbled through the first few weeks of the season. Dallas has since battled back, winning seven of its last nine, and is just three points back of third place in the Central Division. The Stars are a deep team with experience, good puck movers on the blue line, solid goaltending, and good coaching. They could be 15-1 before long.

Montreal Canadiens (30-1)

At what point will the Canadiens start getting the love they deserve from oddsmakers? Hopefully, the answer is never. The Habs have taken 13 of a possible 16 points over their last eight games to move just three back of the Bruins for the division lead. And there's a lot to like about this Montreal team when it comes to its chances of winning in the playoffs.

The thing about the Habs is they can beat you in so many ways. They're capable of playing with speed and skill, but also won't back down from a fight. They have a deep group of forwards and can be exhausting to play against when they're rolling all four lines. Shea Weber is healthy and playing at an elite level, while Carey Price is zoned in and remains a front-runner for the title of world's best goaltender. The Canadiens also have the cap space and assets to make a splash at the trade deadline if they're in a position to do so.

Arizona Coyotes (30-1)

The Coyotes are constructed similarly to the Canadiens in the sense that they are a deep team that relies more on committee scoring than a few high-end skill guys. Nick Schmaltz and Clayton Keller have been excellent, among others, and it's only a matter of time before Phil Kessel starts scoring. Darcy Kuemper has been excellent and Antti Raanta is one of the league's best back-up goalies.

In a weak Pacific Division, the Coyotes a strong bet to secure a playoff berth. Once there, depth scoring and disciplined defensive play will make them a tough out.

Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.

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Report: Crosby considering surgery for lingering sports hernia

Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby is mulling over his treatment options, which include surgery, for a sports hernia that has been bothering him since training camp, sources told The Athletic's Rob Rossi.

Crosby aggravated the hernia during Saturday's contest against the Chicago Blackhawks, Rossi reports. The Penguins captain left in the third period and didn't return.

The 32-year-old is weighing the opinions of medical personnel, and recovery from surgery typically requires four-to-six weeks, Rossi adds.

A different option includes a steroid injection and physical therapy, which would allow Crosby to delay surgery until the end of the season but would put him at risk of further aggravating the hernia.

The Penguins are waiting for Crosby to make a decision before updating his status, according to Rossi.

Crosby has appeared in all 17 of the Penguins' games this season, recording five goals and a team-leading 17 points.

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Avs’ Werner credits ‘great karma’ after 40-save win in surprise debut

Colorado Avalanche netminder Adam Werner pointed to two things after making an NHL debut for the ages against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night.

"Great karma and great positioning," Werner said following the 4-0 win, according to NHL.com's Darrin Bauming.

Werner entered the game after just 31 seconds when starter Pavel Francouz was injured in a scary collision with Jets forward Mark Scheifele. The 22-year-old stopped all 40 shots he faced but won't get credit for the individual shutout because he played only 59:29.

The rookie goaltender was selected by the Avalanche in the fifth round of the 2016 NHL Draft and has remained focused on earning his spot despite spending the previous three seasons bouncing between Europe and the AHL.

"You need to have a dream, and a big dream out there, and work for it, and be prepared if something happened," he said.

Starting netminder Philipp Grubauer missed his third straight game with a lower-body injury, and head coach Jared Bednar didn't provide an update on Francouz's condition postgame.

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Report: Kings remove Kovalchuk from lineup for foreseeable future

The Los Angeles Kings have informed forward Ilya Kovalchuk he will not be in the team's lineup for the foreseeable future, according to Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

The 36-year-old is welcome to practice with the club but will not be seeing any game action, Friedman adds.

Kings general manager Rob Blake would only say Kovalchuk was a healthy scratch against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night, according to The Athletic's Lisa Dillman.

Kovalchuk, who left the NHL in 2013-14 to play professionally in his native Russia, signed a three-year, $18.75-million pact with Los Angeles prior to the 2018-19 season.

The 6-foot-3 marksman has failed to meet expectations in his return to North America, tallying 19 goals and 43 points over 81 games with the Kings.

Head coach Todd McLellan called out his club in October, specifically stating there were "some veterans that really have to pick up their play."

This isn't the first time the Kings have removed Kovalchuk from the lineup. He was a healthy scratch this past March under former bench boss Willie Desjardins, a decision Kovalchuk deemed "horrible."

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Report: Maple Leafs not in market for veteran backup goalie

The Toronto Maple Leafs are not in the market for a veteran backup goaltender despite placing Michael Hutchinson on waivers Monday, TSN's Bob McKenzie reported during Tuesday's edition of "Insider Trading."

Hutchinson, who cleared waivers Tuesday, went winless over five starts for Toronto this season, posting a 4.44 goals-against average and an .879 save percentage.

The Maple Leafs recalled Finnish puck-stopper Kasimir Kaskisuo from the AHL's Toronto Marlies on Tuesday, and it appears the 26-year-old will get a chance to prove himself at the NHL level.

Toronto has played five sets of back-to-back contests this season and will play five more before Dec. 31, including one this weekend. Head coach Mike Babcock has opted to play starter Frederik Andersen in the first game of each set, so it's likely Kaskisuo makes his NHL debut in the Maple Leafs' latter matchup Saturday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Kaskisuo has been excellent for the Marlies this season, posting a 6-1-1 record with a 2.13 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage through eight starts.

Andersen, 30, has carried the league's largest workload since joining the Maple Leafs ahead of the 2016-17 campaign, leading all NHL netminders with 206 starts and 12,045 minutes played over that span.

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Avs’ Francouz exits early vs. Jets after scary collision

Colorado Avalanche netminder Pavel Francouz departed Tuesday's contest after just 31 seconds following a collision with Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele.

The 29-year-old appeared to hit his head on the post and was motionless on the ice for several moments. A team trainer eventually helped him off the ice.

Scheifele was handed a two-minute minor for goaltender interference on the play.

Francouz was replaced by 22-year-old Adam Werner, who makes his NHL debut with the abrupt appearance.

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Gretzky mulling offer to coach Canada at Spengler Cup

The Great One might give coaching another shot.

Sean Burke, Canada's general manager for the upcoming Spengler Cup tournament, approached Wayne Gretzky about guiding the team in December.

"It was a nice surprise when Sean called," Gretzky told The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun on Tuesday. "I thanked him. I was excited about it. Team Canada is pretty special. I think the Spengler Cup is the oldest tournament that we know of. It's a pretty nice honor. I told him I needed some time (to sort things out). The only problem for me is that it's over Christmastime. It's a tough decision to make."

"So, we're talking about it and debating it," he added. "But it's a great honor that he reached out."

The hockey legend has never coached Team Canada but represented his country numerous times. He also built the Canadian squad that won Olympic gold in 2002, as well as the Canadian team that won the World Cup of Hockey in 2004.

Gretzky served as Arizona Coyotes bench boss from 2005 to 2009. The club went 143-161-24 during that time before he stepped down ahead of the 2009-10 campaign.

More recently, he coached the Metropolitan Division All-Stars, including Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, to victory in the three-on-three format at the 2017 festivities in Los Angeles.

The 2019 Spengler Cup will take place from Dec. 26 to 31 in Davos, Switzerland.

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