The New York Rangers will be without one of their key players when the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin, and this time it has nothing to do with the coronavirus. The NHL has suspended forward Brendan Lemieux for two games for a hit that took place in March.
The illegal hit came against Joonas Donskoi of the Colorado Avalanche, but the league waited until an official return-to-play plan was in place before dishing out the punishment. Lemieux met with the league earlier this week, and the suspension was announced on Monday.
Lemieux will be eligible to travel with the team to Toronto but will be forced to sit out the first two games of the series, which begins on Aug. 1. The 11th-seeded New York Rangers are set to take on the sixth-seeded Carolina Hurricanes.
The Rangers are set to take on the New York Islanders in an exhibition game on July 29, and Lemieux will be able to participate in that game. The illegal hit came in the final minutes of an overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche, and Lemieux was assessed a penalty at the time for the hit.
New York would not have made the playoffs if the league wouldn’t have shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the expanded playoffs gave them a chance. Now the Rangers will be playing without one of their best players.
Rangers Not Favored to Win Series
With the news that Lemieux will not be available for the first two games of the series, FanDuel Sportsbook has changed the series betting lines. The Rangers are now the underdogs to win this series, and Carolina has emerged as the betting favorite.
FanDuel Sportsbook has the New York Rangers at +112 to win the first-round play-in series, while the Hurricanes are now listed at -136.
Odds to Win Eastern Conference
The Rangers were considered to be one of the up-and-coming teams in the Eastern Conference, but this news has really dropped their odds. FanDuel Sportsbook now has the Rangers at +2000 to win the Eastern Conference, and they are now considered a longshot.
Interestingly enough, the Carolina Hurricanes are also listed at +2000 to win the Eastern Conference, and the winner of this series will not factor into the conference race.
Bruins, Lightning Stanley Cup Favorites
FanDuel Sportsbook has the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning as the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. The two teams have been battling back and forth for the top overall seed in the Eastern Conference all season long, and the round-robin tournament of the top four teams in the conference to determine seeding will be extremely important.
Tampa Bay was the best overall team in the NHL a season ago but was upset in the first round by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Boston made it to the Stanley Cup Finals a season ago before suffering a stunning loss to the St. Louis Blues.