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Next week, 24 teams (12 from each conference) based in either Toronto or Edmonton will resume their quests to win the Stanley Cup.

This season, which has been disrupted for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will finally get back underway next Saturday with five qualifying round games.

Now, if you have not been following the restart plan, there will be four best-of-five qualifying series in both the Eastern Conference (Toronto) and Western Conference (Edmonton), with the winners moving on to face the top four seeds in the first round of play. After the qualifying round, all series go back to the usual best-of-seven.

The NHL has spread out the games each day so that fans and bettors will have the opportunity to watch wall to wall games for the better part of 10 days, depending on how long each series goes. NBCSN will cover the majority of the contests, with NBC and USA getting a few of the games as well.

St. Louis, which comes into the tournament as the defending Stanley Cup champion, is one of the four seeded teams in the Western Conference, along with the Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, and Dallas Stars, that will play a round robin to determine final seeding.

Right now with Bet Rivers IL, the Blues are co-sixth favorite to retain their title at +1000. They have the third best odds in the West, behind Vegas (+800) and Colorado (+900), and ahead of all the teams that have to play qualifying rounds. Since those teams will have to play up to five brutal games just after the restart to even get into the first round, many American sportsbooks are not giving any of those 16 teams much of a chance to make a run. But with this unprecedented season, maybe this is the time to take a shot with one of the lower-seeded sides.

Or maybe not.

The Blues had run through the regular season with the second best record in the league, securing 94 points, only behind Boston (100 points). They had played a lot of games over the last couple seasons, and had some injuries, but St. Louis will come into this restart pretty healthy and rested. That might be key. To get this team at +1000 is akin to a steal at this point; there probably should not be six teams ahead of the Blues in the odds, but if you are going to bet them, think of it as a gift.

PointsBet offers odds on the team to win each conference, and also to get the top seed after the round robin. St. Louis is the favorite (+175) to get the top seed, with Colorado (+225), Vegas (+300), and Dallas (+550) behind the Blues. In the East, Boston (+140) and Tampa Bay (+175) are favored by the sportsbooks to get the number one seed, with Philadelphia (+500) and Washington (+550) both outsiders.

St. Louis is +475 to win its second straight Clarence S. Campbell Cup as Western Conference Champion, behind Colorado (+350) and Vegas (+360).

PREDICTIONS AND PICKS:

In the Eastern Conference, I like Tampa Bay (+300) to get to the finals. In the Western Conference, I would take St. Louis to repeat (+475), and maybe throw a little long shot play on Nashville at +1800.

The Blues are also pretty tempting at +1000 to go back-to-back as Stanley Cup champions, with Nashville (+4000) worth a play if you are backing the Predators to win the West.

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