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Online oddsmaker: Crosby, Kessel co-favorites for Olympic MVP; Oshie at 15/1

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Online sportsbook Bovada has released a series of props prior to the start of the Olympic hockey playoff round and, unsurprisingly, a pair of American names have rocketed up the MVP list.

Phil Kessel, the tournament’s leading scorer, sits even with Sidney Crosby (11/2) as the favorite to win most valuable player. The odds illustrate what a dominant tournament Kessel’s had thus far — on Feb. 5, Bovada released a similar set of pre-tournament MVP odds in which the Toronto winger was listed at 30/1.

As for the other American moving up the list, Olympic hero T.J. Oshie comes in at 15/1 after failing to crack the initial list. Oshie skyrocketed to fame thanks to his four goals in a dramatic win over Russia on Saturday, and now has the same odds as Finnish goalie Tuukka Rask to win tournament MVP.

Here’s the full odds list, per Bovada:

Phil Kessel (USA) 11/2
Sidney Crosby (CAN) 11/2
Pavel Datsyuk (RUS) 13/2
Drew Doughty (CAN) 15/2
Alex Ovechkin (RUS) 8/1
Jonathan Quick (USA) 10/1
Carey Price (CAN) 10/1
Henrik Lundqvist (SWE) 10/1
Erik Karlsson (SWE) 12/1
Semyon Varlamov (RUS) 12/1
T.J. Oshie (USA) 15/1
Tuukka Rask (FIN) 15/1
John Tavares (CAN) 20/1
James van Riemsdyk (USA) 15/1
Jonas Hiller (SUI) 25/1
Ondrej Pavelec (CZE) 40/1
Tomas Plekanec (CZE) 50/1
Olli Jokinen (FIN) 50/1

And here are the updated gold medal odds:

Canada 17/10
USA 11/4
Russia 16/5
Sweden 5/1
Finland 11/1
Czech Republic 25/1
Switzerland 25/1
Slovakia 100/1
Norway 500/1
Latvia 500/1
Austria 500/1
Slovenia 500/1

Finally, Bovada’s also released a series of props for the tournament’s leading goalscorer. The current leader, Michael Grabner, is at 5/4, followed by Kessel (7/4), Doughty (13/2), Jeff Carter (8/1), Ovechkin (9/1), Evgeni Malkin (11/1), Karlsson (12/1), Crosby (20/1), Joe Pavelski (30/1) and Ryan Getzlaf (30/1).

Justin Schultz is having a pretty good season

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 20:  Justin Schultz #4 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates with the puck in the first period during the game against the San Jose Sharks at PPG PAINTS Arena on October 20, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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It was Justin Schultz‘s kind of game last night in Pittsburgh, where the Penguins beat the Senators, 8-5, in a fun, back-and-forth affair.

Schultz was in on a pair of Pittsburgh goals. He scored one and assisted on another. The 26-year-old defenseman now has three goals and eight assists in 26 games. And on a good team that can put him in a position to succeed, he’s a plus-13.

Schultz, of course, joined the Penguins last season in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers. He won a Stanley Cup in June, then re-signed for one year and $1.4 million in July.

     Read more: Justin Schultz quietly making big impact on Penguins power play

“He deserves a lot of credit for the effort, the commitment level he’s shown,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Friday, per the Post-Gazette.

Sullivan too deserves credit, for playing Schultz to his strengths and bringing out the best in an imperfect player. An offensive defenseman, Schultz is not being asked to do much of the heavy lifting defensively. He starts a lot of shifts in the attacking zone, and he doesn’t play very often against the opposition’s best.

Last night, Schultz displayed his offensive instincts and abilities, jumping up in the rush to take a pass from Evgeni Malkin, then burying it for the go-ahead goal.

Schultz ended up logging 19:54 of ice time, including 16:20 at even strength, the most among Penguins d-men.

On eve of California trip, ‘Canes get discouraging news on Staal

Jordan Staal
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When Carolina put Jordan Staal on IR with a concussion eight days ago, many wondered how the club would react to losing such a versatile performer.

Those same people will have to wonder a little longer.

The ‘Canes, who have gone 1-2-1 in their first four games without Staal, are unlikely to get him back for at least another three — on Tuesday, head coach Bill Peters said Staal was unlikely to travel with the team for its upcoming road trip through California.

Also, there’s this:

It’s a profound loss, to say the least. The 28-year-old has a pretty big role in Carolina, and is the club’s top defensive center. He averages a healthy 18:29 TOI per game, and is one of the club’s best faceoff men, winning draws at a 60 percent clip.

Last year, Staal scored 20 goals for the first time since being acquired by the ‘Canes. He was off to a modest offensive start this year, with five goals and nine points through 21 contests.

Having a big-bodied center like Staal is usually vital for these California trips. The ‘Canes will have to deal with the likes of Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler, Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar and San Jose’s Joe Thornton.

With Staal out, Teuvo Teravainen has picked up the slack at center. He played a healthy 18:21 in Sunday’s OT win over the Lightning.

Tough blow for Panthers, who rule out Yandle (lower body) ‘for a while’

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 20:  Keith Yandle #3 of the Florida Panthers skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on November 20, 2016 in New York City. The Panthers defeated the Rangers 3-2 in the shootout.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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These are not the best of times for Florida.

Just weeks removed from the controversial firing of head coach Gerard Gallant — and having sputtered to a 1-1-2 record under new bench boss Tom Rowe — the Panthers got more bad news on Tuesday, as Rowe ruled out d-man Keith Yandle “for a while,” after Yandle suffered a lower-body injury in Boston on Monday night (per ESPN).

Yandle, the prized piece of an offseason blueline rebuild, has played a significant role for the Panthers this year.

He sits second on the team in ice time — trailing only Aaron Ekblad — and his offensive production has been vital. The 30-year-old sits second on the team in assists, with 11, and is the top point-getter among Florida’s defensemen.

By missing tonight’s game in Philly, Yandle also loses out on a personal milestone.

He had played the previous 577 games — the 10th-longest ironman streak in NHL history — and was within spitting distance of becoming one of just nine players to have appeared in 600 consecutive contests.

With Yandle out, Florida could bring Dylan McIlrath into the blueline mix. He’s only appeared in one game for the Panthers since being acquired from the Rangers — a 6-1 loss to Toronto back in mid-November.

And the Yandle injury isn’t the only one Florida’s currently dealing with. Jonathan Marchessault missed the B’s game with a lower-body ailment, and d-man Alex Petrovic is out after undergoing ankle surgery. The Panthers, of course, are also without star forward Jonathan Huberdeau, who hasn’t played at all this year due to a lacerated Achilles.

Curtis Lazar out indefinitely after being hit by Pens’ Dumoulin

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 02:  Curtis Lazar #27 of the Ottawa Senators takes the puck in the first period against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on April 2, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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It hasn’t been the easiest year for Senators forward Curtis Lazar.

After sticking in the NHL for his first two pro seasons, Lazar began the 2016-17 campaign in the minors. That’s a pretty big step back for the former 17th overall pick in 2013.

The 21-year-old managed to earn a call up back in November, but there’s now some more adversity for him to face.

Lazar suffered a an upper-body injury in last night’s 8-5 loss to the Penguins and although we don’t know how long he’ll be out, we do know he’ll miss some time, as he’s out indefinitely.

He appeared to be injured after being on the receiving end of a hit by Pens defenseman Brian Dumoulin. It was a  hit that Sens play-by-play announcer described as being “from behind”.

With Craig Anderson also leaving the team to head back to Ottawa, the Sens were forced to recall forward Phil Varone and goalie Andrew Hammond from the minors.

Ottawa has three games remaining on their four-game road trip. They’ll take on the Sharks on Wednesday, the Kings on Saturday and the Ducks on Sunday.