Updated on 09/15/2011 2:10PM

It's pucks away for Avalanche and Red Wings

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The start of the NHL season went virtually unnoticed by sports bettors in Las Vegas Wednesday night.

The Colorado Avalanche, the defending Stanley Cup champions, started the season the same way they ended last season: with a 3-1 victory, this time over the Jaromir Jagr-less Pittsburgh Penguins. But sports book patrons on Wednesday night were more interested in the baseball pennant races and Barry Bonds's pursuit of the home run record.

However, the public will have plenty of time to warm up to hockey since the season lasts for eight months.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which supplies odds to 90 percent of Nevada's sports books, has the Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings as 9-2 co-favorites to win the Stanley Cup. The Avalanche lost Ray Bourque to retirement, but they still have center Joe Sakic, the regular-season MVP, and goalie Patrick Roy, the playoffs' MVP, and a very talented supporting cast, including rookie Vaclav Nedorost, who scored the first goal Wednesday night and also had an assist. Peter Forsberg will make Colorado even better if his injuries don't force him into retirement.

Detroit, which was unceremoniously ousted by Los Angeles in the playoffs, resembles an All-Star team as it tries to get coach Scotty Bowman his ninth championship. The Red Wings have added Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, and goalie Dominik Hasek to an already formidable squad that includes Steve Yzerman, Sergei Federov, and Chris Chelios.

The New Jersey Devils, the defending Eastern Conference champs, are at 5-1 to win the Cup along with the St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers have been bet down from opening odds of 12-1 after an off-season shopping spree by general manager Bob Clarke that netted John LeClair, Jeremy Roenick, Eric Weinrich, and Jiri Dopita.

Jagr is now in Washington (though his arrival has now been overshadowed by Michael Jordan) and his presence has helped reduce the Capitals' odds from 18-1 to 12-1, which is also the odds on the Ottawa Senators and Dallas Stars.

The biggest adjustment in the futures odds have come on the New York Islanders, who opened at 250-1 and are now down to 75-1. The Islanders have acquired goaltender Chris Osgood from Detroit, plus center Alexi Yashin from Ottawa and defensive forward Mike Peca from Boston.

If you're looking to dip your toe into the hockey betting pond, be advised that not every sports book uses the same lines. More and more books are going to straight wagering with both teams at pick-em (goals-wise, with an adjusted money-line, just like in baseball wagering). Other books, especially those that don't want to refund all wagers when a game ends in a tie, will make the favorite lay half a goal and reduce the money-line or even pay plus-money on smaller favorites. Bettors taking the underdog would win their bet in this scenario if the game ends in a tie, but they give up a lot of profits if the underdog wins outright. In the long run, it's better to lay the half-goal with favorites and take dogs to win straight up.

There are definitely bargains to be found for the bettor willing to shop around.

Casino News and Notes

The Las Vegas tourism business is slowly returning to normal in the wake of the events of Sept. 11. After two weekends of 50 and 75 percent hotel room occupancy - September usually yields 95 percent - last weekend Vegas hotel rooms were at 93 percent occupancy. However, a lot of those were at reduced rates as hotels try to lure back customers.

For now, layoffs will stand

There have been an estimated 15,000 layoffs in the casino industry since the terrorist attacks and hotel operators are saying a lot of those workers won't be hired back until the weekday occupancy rates also rise.

A big part of the midweek drop-off has been the cancellation of 249 conventions and trade shows, which are usually held during the week and help fill the city's hotel rooms. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority estimates the cancellations will keep 78,700 people from coming to town and deprive the city of $98.7 million in non-gambling revenue (from hotel rooms, restaurants, shows, etc.).

o The LVCVA launched a $13 million ad campaign Wednesday aimed at building the tourism numbers. The newspaper and television campaign is targeted mainly at Western markets in which visitors can drive or take short flights to Vegas.

One thing that won't be mentioned in those ads is that five hijackers reportedly spent time in Las Vegas this summer. The FBI is following leads and trying to determine if Vegas was being considered as a target, or if the terrorists were just meeting here because it's a convenient place for people of all nationalities to blend in without attracting attention. Hotel security officers and nearby Nellis Air Force Base remain on high alert.

o Many Vegas visitors are stopping by the New York-New York Hotel-Casino looking for replicas of the World Trade Center's twin towers only to find out they aren't part of the casino's Manhattan skyline, which was modeled after New York in the 1940's.

Still, it's understandable that the producers of the major motion picture "Ocean's 11" are reshooting a scene in which the New York-New York explodes (in a computer-generated sequence). When the Rat Pack remake is released in theaters Dec. 7, a fictitious hotel will be used in the scene.

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ODDS TO WIN STANLEY CUP

TEAMODDS

Avalanche9-2

Red Wings9-2

Devils5-1

Blues5-1

Flyers5-1

Capitals12-1

Stars12-1

Senators12-1

Maple Leafs15-1

Sharks18-1

Sabres25-1

Penguins25-1

Kings25-1

Canucks25-1

Rangers25-1

Oilers30-1

TEAMODDS

Hurricanes40-1

Bruins40-1

Panthers50-1

Canadiens50-1

Blackhawks60-1

Coyotes60-1

Flames 75-1

Mighty Ducks75-1

Predators75-1

Islanders75-1

Wild100-1

Blue Jackets100-1

Thrashers200-1

Lightning250-1

Odds from Las Vegas Sports Consultants