Thursday night brings us a big slate of NHL games, which means I got some more picks ready to roll. Here is what I am going with.
Season Record: 36-24
Tail or fade with caution!
Predators @ Panthers
Picks: Over 5.5 (-120) and Panthers ML (-115)
The Panthers are the last remaining team that who have yet to lose in regulation, and they come in to this game with a 5-0-1 record. They return home after a four-game road trip against the Blue Jackets and Red Wings, and I think they will be comfortable on their own ice. The Panthers scored five goals in each of their two home games this season, and their offense has really taken a step forward so far this season. Their 3.50 goals per game is 8th in the league, and their power play is 4th in the league, converting on 36.8% of their man advantages. Their offensive attack is setup nicely here against a Nashville team that has the worst PK% in the league at 64.9%. In addition to that, Nashville has yet to win on the road this season (0-4), and they are giving up 4.75 goals per game in their four road contests so far. On the contrary they are giving up just 2.00 goals per game at home so far. Still a relatively small sample size, but I think they will have their hands full on the road against a good Florida team. The good news is that they still have the offensive capabilities to score goals as well, and they are 5th in the league with 32.2 shots per game. I think we see this one go Over.
I also think the Panthers will come out on top. As mentioned, the Predators have really struggled on the road so far, and with the Panthers back at home after three days off, they will be rested and ready to go. I think Florida will be able to convert on their power play chances against Nashville’s dead-last PK, and that could be the difference. The Panthers are 4-1 against the Preds in their last five matchups, and I give them the advantage here.
Stars @ Blue Jackets
Pick: Blue Jackets ML (+100)
The Stars absolutely rocked the Blue Jackets on Tuesday by a score of 6-3, which completely ruined the Columbus debuts of not only Patrik Laine, but their reverse retro jerseys. Dallas was clicking on all cylinders offensively, as Joe Pavelski had a four-point night (2G, 2A), and they converted twice on the power play. Dallas chased Joonas Korpisalo out of the game in the 2nd period after he allowed five goals on 23 shots (.783 SV%). Elvis Merzlikins replaced him and stopped all nine shots he faced, and he should be in net tonight. In his last start against the Blackhawks, Merzlikins made some poor decisions trying to play the puck behind his own net, and he allowed three goals in a loss. However, I think he learned from those mistakes and will not be as aggressive playing the puck in this one. He still has a respectable .913 SV% and 2.76 GAA, and I think he will be strong in net tonight. I also think the Jackets are a better defensive team than what we saw on Tuesday. Sure the Dallas offense is great, but John Tortorella cannot be pleased with the way his team played, especially defensively, and I think he will get them turned around in Game 2. Yeah Korpisalo gave up the five goals, but his defense was not helping him out. The Stars were doing whatever they wanted to. I expect Columbus to be better tonight. Tuesday’s game was also the debut of Patrik Laine in a Blue Jackets uniform, so things might have not been quite in sync yet offensively. With a game under their belt with him in the lineup, I think their offense will be a bit smoother. In 18 games against the Stars in his career, Laine has 25 points (18G, 7A), and after being held point-less in the first game, I think he gets back on track tonight. I’ll take the Jackets ML.
Hurricanes @ Blackhawks
Pick: Under 6 (-110)
I went with this same pick on Tuesday, and it did not hit as the total went Over 6 in a 4-3 shootout win for the Hurricanes. However, I am rolling with it again tonight. Carolina is one of the best defensive teams out there, as their 1.68 GAA is best in the league, and their 24.7 shots against per game is third-best. They had some turnovers in their own zone on Tuesday that led to Chicago finding the back of the net, and I think they will clean it up in this one. The goaltending situation also makes me think we will see an Under tonight. James Reimer for Carolina may be their backup, but he is now in the No. 1 role with Petr Mrazek out with an injury. Reimer has been great this season, posting a 4-0 record with a 2.19 GAA and .915 SV%. He played decent in the first matchup against the Hawks, stopping 30 of 33 shots (.909 SV%), and as mentioned, I think the defense will be better in front of him tonight. For Chicago, rookie Kevin Lankinen is playing very well posting a 2.09 GAA and .935 SV% in seven games. After a relatively high-scoring first game, I think the second matchup will be more of a defensive contest. Give me the Under.
Flames @ Jets
Pick: Jets ML (+100)
This is the fourth meeting between these two teams, and the third of a four-game series. The Jets have taken two of the three total meetings, and the current series is split one to one. I like the Jets to win tonight. They are coming off a 3-2 win on Tuesday, and that was without Connor Hellebuyck in net. The game before that, the Jets took a 2-1 into the 3rd period, before allowing Calgary to tie it and force overtime. The Flames went on to win in a shootout thanks to Johnny Gaudreau, but I think it was a game Hellebuyck would like back. He had to sit yesterday and watch his team get a win without him, and after back-to-back losing starts, I think he will be on his A-game tonight wanting to pick up a win. Hellebuyck is capable of playing much better than he has been, and going up against a Calgary team that is 19th in both shots and goals per game should bode well for him. The home team is 15-7 in the last 22 meetings between these two teams, and I think the Jets get it done tonight at home.
Best of luck. Cheers.