The Stanley Cup will be hoisted by one of four teams: Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Nashville or Anaheim. The puck drops on the NHL conference finals Friday and Saturday, leaving you little time to handicap hockey. Don’t sweat it. Our NHL betting cheat sheet will get you up to speed on everything you need to know to body check your bookie.
Predators' maiden voyage
The Nashville Predators will play in the Western Conference final for the first time in history, and they have plenty of momentum as they prepare to face the Anaheim Ducks for the right to play in the Stanley Cup final.
The Predators (+100 at SportsInteraction.com) have rolled to an 8-2 record so far this postseason, sweeping the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks before dispatching the St. Louis Blues in six games in the second round.
The Ducks (-120) are coming off a taxing seven-game battle with the Edmonton Oilers, rallying from an early deficit to prevail 2-1 in Game 7 Wednesday. Anaheim took two of three in the regular season series.
Pens-Sens to settle the East
The Pittsburgh Penguins continue their quest to defend their Stanley Cup title as they tangle with the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference final.
The Penguins needed seven grueling games to advance past the Washington Capitals, earning a 2-0 victory in the seventh and deciding game on Wednesday night. Pittsburgh is installed as a heavy -164 favorite to upend the Senators (+125), who ousted the New York Rangers in six games to advance to their third conference final in team history, and the first since 2007. Ottawa won two of three meetings in the season series, with the home team prevailing each time.
* The Ducks might be without two key players for Game 1 of the Western Conference final which gets underway Friday night in Anaheim. Defenseman Kevin Bieksa and forward Patrick Eaves are both considered questionable for the series opener. Both are dealing with lower-body injuries.
* The Predators are relatively healthy entering the conference final. Kevin Fiala is out for the season with a leg injury, while fellow left winger Pontus Aberg is recovering from an upper-body injury and is considered questionable for Game 1. The rest of the Predators skaters are expected to be ready for the opener.
* Ottawa doesn't have many injuries to report as it gets ready to face the Penguins in the series opener Saturday night. Defenseman Mark Borowiecki remains out indefinitely with a leg injury, while winger Viktor Stalberg went down in the third period of Game 6 against the Rangers with an undisclosed injury and is questionable for Game 1 against Pittsburgh.
* The Penguins will have close to a full complement for the first game of the conference final. Only defensemen Kris Letang (neck, out for season) and Trevor Daley (lower body, questionable) are on the injury report going into the opener. Daley missed the last two games of the Washington series with the ailment.
* The Ducks almost certainly wouldn't be in the conference final were it not for the shocking scoring exploits of veteran center Ryan Getzlaf, who has eight goals in 11 playoff games - more than halfway to the 15 goals he scored in 74 regular-season contests. Getzlaf had a goal and two assists in two games against Nashville this season.
* The key to the Predators' offensive success so far this postseason? Sharing the wealth. Nashville has had 14 different goal scorers in the playoffs, with no single player recording more than four goals. No other team still alive in the Stanley Cup playoffs has had as many different goal-scoring sources.
* The Penguins still rule the roost when it comes to playoff scoring, occupying four of the top six spots on the leaderboard heading into the Eastern Conference final. Evgeni Malkin leads all players with 18 points, while Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby are tied for fourth with 14 points apiece. Phil Kessel is right behind them with 13 points.
* Ottawa blueliner Erik Karlsson has been dominant in the playoffs. He's the only defenseman averaging better than a point per game, with two goals and 11 assists through the Senators' first 12 playoff games. No other defenseman has more than nine points to date.
Stanley Cup futures
* To no one's surprise, the Penguins are the oddsmakers' top pick to win the Stanley Cup championship, sitting at +162 according to Sports Interaction. The Ducks are next in line at +225, with the Predators carrying the third-best odds at +300 and the Senators bringing up the rear at +450.
* Oddsmakers are expecting both series to be competitive, with identical odds for number of games. A four-game sweep in either series comes in at +550, with a five-game result carrying odds of +250. Both six- and seven-game results carry identical +187 odds for both series.
* If you're feeling particularly saucy, you'll get great odds on any sweep. Pittsburgh is listed at +900 to finish off Ottawa in four games, while the Senators are a whopping +1,400 to sweep the Penguins. Both the Predators and Ducks are installed at +1,100 to record a four-game whitewash.