Defending champ St. Louis Blues trail on Western Conference odds

St.-Louis-Blues-Jay-Bouwmeester-Jake-Allen-Alex-Pietrangelo-celebrate-a-win

St. Louis Blues' Jay Bouwmeester, left, goalie Jake Allen and Alex Pietrangelo, right, celebrate a win. (Jeff Roberson/AP)

The defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues were handed a setback in their preparations to return to action after four players reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. The unwelcome news forced the team to temporarily postpone workouts, and has raised concerns about whether the players affected will be available when the NHL resumes play on Aug. 1.

Despite those worries the Blues maintain strong odds to repeat as Western Conference champions, closely trailing the favourites as a short +400 wager at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

St. Louis had just kicked into high gear when the NHL schedule was halted in mid-March. Winners in 10 of their final 12 regular season contests, the Blues entered the pause sporting the best record in the Western Conference. However, with eight of those 10 victories coming against clubs that sat outside the playoff picture, the Blues’ recent surge has failed to give them a significant lift on the Stanley Cup odds, where they continue to lag as a +1100 wager.

While the Blues remain stalled, the Vegas Golden Knights have gained momentum during the league shutdown, and head into the return to play knotted with the Colorado Avalanche as +300 co-favourites on the Western Conference championship odds. Despite enduring a rash of injuries that sidelined a number of players, including Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty, the Golden Knights rebounded from a shaky start to post wins in 11 of their final 13 contests. With the club returning to action at full health, they have steadily risen on the Western Conference odds, where they lagged at +750 back in mid-February.

The Avalanche also entered the pause on a tear, going 7-2-1 in their final 10 outings, and will receive a boost from the return from injury of Mikko Rantanen and Philipp Grubauer. The Dallas Stars are hoping the down time will reverse their fortunes. Dallas rode a six-game losing streak into the pause, but continues to sit fourth on the conference futures as a +650 wager.

Further down the Western Conference odds at sports betting sites, the Edmonton Oilers will be hoping to enjoy some level of home-ice advantage as they prepare for their play-in series against Chicago as a +1100 bet. The Blackhawks follow Edmonton at +1800, ahead of the Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks, who both sport +2200 odds.

The Minnesota Wild look to their play-in series against Vancouver listed at +2500 on the futures, while Canadian clubs occupy two of the three spots at the bottom of the odds board, with the Winnipeg Jets sitting at +2600, just ahead of the Calgary Flames, who join the Arizona Coyotes as the +2800 longshots.

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