Pens looking to break Devils jinx

The race for play-off positions will surely intensify over the second half of the campaign, and it is perhaps fitting after the bye week and NHL All Star break that the Metropolitan Division takes centre stage on the return to NHL action, given their resounding success in San Jose.

Crosby boost for Pittsburgh

Sydney Crosby has joined a select group of players to have won the Conn Smythe, the Hart Trophy and now the All-Star MVP – awarded for two goals and three assists in the championship round (four and four on the night) – at the Shark Tank on Saturday night, and he will be hoping to carry that sort of form through the second half of Pittsburgh’s season.

The Penguins currently hold the last wildcard position in the East, but have at least a game in hand on most of their rivals above them, while they are four points clear of the chasing pack.

It is no surprise to see Pittsburgh installed as strong 1.48 favourites to resume their campaign with a win, given the fact that their opposition are the New Jersey Devils, second bottom in the Conference.

Devils seeking Pens hat-trick

There is an argument though that the Devils are worth taking a risk on, particularly at odds of 2.70, a massive price in the helter-skelter nature of the NHL.

Admittedly, the Devils are not in great form – losing the last three and seven of the last ten – and their away record is dire, with just five victories out of 25 on the road.

However, they have taken on the Pens twice already this term, and have won both times, emerging from the PPG Paints Arena with a 5-1 success back in November, followed up by a 4-2 win at home a week later.

Taylor Hall is unlikely to play which is a big miss, but the Pens have lost to strugglers Chicago Blackhawks and LA Kings of late, and go into the game having been smashed 7-3 by Vegas Golden Knights last time out, and may come unstuck once again in what could be a tight encounter.

Flyers form put to the test

The Philadelphia Flyers are also in action on Tuesday and face a formidable foe in the Winnipeg Jets, as they make a perhaps forlorn push for the play-offs.

The Jets have shown they are difficult to back against after taking control of the Central Division, currently level on points with Nashville Predators but with four games in hand.

They score goals, don’t concede many, are in great form, can win on the road, so it is not hard to see why they are the 1.76 favourites to pick up another victory at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers though have at least found some goal-scoring form, winning their last three games, and four of the last five, and they will look to capitalise on the Jets’ defeat to Dallas Stars last time out at 2.10.

Sabres can kickstart wildcard push

There is a little bit more at stake for both sides at the Nationwide Arena, when Columbus Blue Jackets host Buffalo Sabres. The home side are third in the Metropolitan Division, while the visitors are one place outside of the wildcard places and needing to close the gap.

The Blue Jackets do have home advantage but are only five points clear of their opponents after 48 games of the season, and it is perhaps a touch surprising that they are such strong favourites at 1.55, given they have lost their last two games.

The Sabres were also losers last time out but they had previously won at Western Conference leaders Calgary Flames, while they have beaten the likes of Tampa Bay, Winnipeg and San Jose this season, and look too big to ignore at 2.50.