Review the Western Conference futures odds, understanding that the NHL All-Star Break begins Thursday & every team in the league has played more than half of its regular-season games.
Kings Playing More Like Queens
It's very rare in the NHL for the defending Stanley Cup champion to miss the playoffs the following season, but that's a realistic possibility facing the Los Angeles Kings. If the postseason started on Tuesday, Los Angeles would not be part of the eight-team Western Conference field.
The Kings have just 52 points, which is ninth in the West and only the fifth-most in the Pacific Division. Winning the division is a pipe dream at this point with Anaheim 14 points ahead of Los Angeles. So what has been the problem? Sure, injuries have hurt, but every NHL team deals with those. No Cup contender is worse on the road as Los Angeles is only 5-8-6 away from Staples Center. The Arizona Coyotes and Carolina Hurricanes, two of the worst teams in the league, have more home wins than L.A.
That's bad news because starting Wednesday in San Jose, the Kings' final game before the break, six of the next seven are on the road. It's not like Los Angeles has been that great at home of late, either. The team completed a season-high seven-game homestand on Monday with a 2-1 overtime loss to Calgary. The Kings won just one of those seven home games, and that 2-0 victory came with backup goalie Martin Jones in net. Starter Jonathan Quick was the guy in there for the six losses, and the Kings allowed at least four goals in four of those defeats. Los Angeles also has dropped eight straight games that have gone to overtime or a shootout.
Los Angeles is down to 18/1 on Bodog's NHL odds to repeat as Cup champion and 17/2 to win the West. The Kings are +115 underdogs for Wednesday's game at the Sharks.
Jets Legit Contenders?
While the Kings are sliding down the Western Conference standings, the Winnipeg Jets are climbing them and have tied the Stanley Cup favored Chicago Blackhawks with 58 points, good or third in the tough Central Division.
Winnipeg brings a four-game winning streak -- and six-game points streak -- into Wednesday's home game against Columbus. The Jets totaled 14 goals in those four games and it included an impressive 4-2 victory at the Blackhawks last Friday. Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien was the NHL's No. 1 star of last week, with three goals and three assists. About six weeks ago the Jets were near the bottom of the NHL in scoring. Thanks to a recent offensive surge, they are now 17th at 2.70 goals per game.
The Jets, the fifth-youngest team in the NHL with an average age of 26.7, are now given an 85.2 percent chance of making the playoffs. They rotate goalies in Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec; the former has been better with a 13-4-2 mark, 2.00 goals-against average and .932 save percentage. Hutchinson will get consideration for the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie, although it's a really strong field this season.
One thing the Jets do need to work one: taking penalties. Winnipeg is the NHL's most-shorthanded team this season, 193 times, and has played shorthanded 333 minutes 29 seconds, more than 53 minutes more than the next-closest team. The Jets do rank a solid No. 9 in penalty killing.
Winnipeg is still a 40/1 long shot NHL pick to win the Cup and 22/1 to win the West. The Jets are -160 on NHL odds for Wednesday's game against the Jackets. Winnipeg could get back defenseman Jacob Trouba for the game. He hasn't played since Dec. 13 due to an upper-body injury. Trouba has four goals and eight assists and is plus-3 in 31 games. Center Mathieu Perreault will not play night as he recovers from an upper-body injury suffered in last Friday’s win over the Blackhawks. Perreault has 15 goals and 29 points this season.