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Capitals favored in Game 4 vs. Sidney Crosby-less Penguins

With Sidney Crosby in the lineup, the Penguins would be a slight favorite in Game 4 of their NHL second-round playoff series against the Capitals in Pittsburgh.

Without Crosby, who will miss Wednesday’s game with a concussion suffered in Game 3, the Penguins are plus-110 underdogs to Washington. The Capitals are a consensus minus-125 favorite to win Game 4 on the road and tie the series 2-2.

The injury to Crosby, who was knocked out of Monday’s 3-2 overtime loss in the first period, also has impacted the series odds. Despite having a 2-1 series lead and playing Game 4 at home, defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh is only a minus-125 favorite to win the series.

“If it wasn’t for the Crosby injury, it would be 7-5 or higher for the series,” Sunset Station sports book director Chuck Esposito said. “With the teams that are left right now, the two most impactful players, in my opinion, are Crosby and (Edmonton’s) Connor McDavid. Crosby’s arguably the most exciting player in the league.

“Not having Crosby, along with some of the other injuries the Penguins have, will definitely have a huge impact on the Penguins and that entire series.”

Pittsburgh left wing Conor Sheary also will miss Game 4 with a concussion suffered in Game 3.

The Penguins are 4-4 in the playoffs without Crosby, who led the league in goals scored this season with 44 and has four in the postseason. The Capitals are 5-0-2 against Pittsburgh in games in which Washington star Alex Ovechkin played and Crosby didn’t, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Handicapper Alex Smith (AxSmithSports.com) picked the Penguins to upset the Capitals before the series started and still expects them to prevail. But he’s backing Washington in Game 4.

“Short term, I think the injury is obviously going to help Washington. You’d already heard that Pittsburgh’s weakness is they’re thin because they’ve already had injuries,” he said. “But losing Crosby and Sheary on top of all the injuries they’ve already had is too much for them to miss. And now that (Capitals defenseman Matt) Niskanen will not be suspended, all six defensemen will be back for the Caps.”

Crosby suffered his concussion when he was cross-checked in the head in front of the net by Niskanen, his former teammate.

A two-time Hart Trophy winner as the NHL’s MVP, Crosby has missed 114 games in his career because of concussion-related issues: 48 in 2010-11, 60 in 2011-12 and the first six this season.

Pittsburgh won the first two games in Washington, cashing as plus-120 underdogs in a 3-2 win in the series opener and as plus-145 ’dogs in a 6-2 win in Game 2. The Capitals cashed as minus-105 favorites in a virtual must-win Game 3.

“I’d say it goes seven games, and I would still lean with Pittsburgh because Washington has a history of blowing it late in a series,” Smith said. “Without Crosby, it really hurts the offense, and the Capitals defense can focus more on Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin. But Sheary should be back before the end of the series, and that should help the offense.

“The Penguins will find a way to win without Crosby, but it will be a heck of a lot tougher now.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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