It’s time for a little Friday puck action, which means it’s almost time for the weekend. There’s nothing better than coming home, kicking off the shoes and getting in on a little puck action on a Friday night. It sets you up for the big slate of games on Saturday and is the perfect cap to a long week.
With just six games this week we’re going to preview the matchups in-depth so that you have the best information before placing a bet. As always, search out the underdogs and don’t be afraid to take a risk. Hockey is all about creating your own luck, and anyone can win on any night.
Detroit Red Wings at Buffalo Sabres
Detroit (-105) at Buffalo (-125)
Detroit +1.5 (-290) at Buffalo -1.5 (+235)
Total – Over/Under
5.5 (115 over, -145 under)
No need to readjust your glasses or do a double take, the Red Wings and the Sabres is our feature game of the night. We’re well aware that both teams are near the bottom of the Eastern Conference in the standings, but their recent play, youth and skill level on display each night has made a matchup like this a must-watch hockey game.
To make matters more interesting, the Wings are on a little bit of a win streak. Detroit has won three straight games, including impressive wins over Boston, Montreal and Pittsburgh. Those aren’t exactly bottom feeder teams and Detroit has been winning in a variety of ways. They blew out the Penguins, scored just one goal against the Canadiens in a shutout, and on Wednesday night completed a comeback in the shootout.
Whether it’s the veteran leadership of Henrik Zetterberg or the suddenly high-scoring youth movement, the Wings have refused to give up. That’s bad news for the rest of the Eastern Conference as Detroit has a long and storied history with success and the playoffs.
In Buffalo the playoffs may be out of reach this season, but impressing their fans certainly isn’t. The Sabres have committed to a rebuild, and are going about it the right away. After taking time with Jack Eichel’s injury the star-in-the-making has returned and gets a ton of minutes to improve his game and help his team win every night.
These may not be the two best teams in hockey, or even the two best teams playing tonight, but they’re a sign of things to come for the NHL which is why we’ve made it our feature game.
Despite ranking 22nd in the NHL in goals per game with just 2.62, the Wings are watching that number climb with each passing game. They’ve now scored 18 goals over their last five games which averages out to almost 3.5 a contest.
Gustav Nyqvist has taken his game to the next level as the top line right-winger for Detroit. He has six points in his last four games including a huge tying goal against the Bruins on Wednesday and a three point performance against the Penguins on January 14h. Nyqvist has shown flashes of brilliance all season long but has yet to tie it all together. This consistency is a great sign for the 27-year old.
Another player that hasn’t quite lived up to the hype surrounding him last year, Dylan Larkin, needs to improve on the offensive end if he wants to see his team make the playoffs. That improvement may have started with his last game against Boston. He scored both a goal and an assist, and at just 20-years old the sophomore may be ready to go on a run.
If Detroit has a problem on offense right now it’s their powerplay. The Wings are dead last in the NHL when deploying the extra attacker, with a success rate of just 10.46 percent. Scoring on one of every ten power plays just won’t cut it in today’s NHL, and they need the goals to start coming. Thomas Vanek leads the team in power play goals… with three. If that’s not indicative of this team’s need to start finding secondary scoring with the extra attacker we don’t know what is.
In Buffalo the goals have been hard to come by all season long. They rank behind Detroit at 26th in the NHL and are scoring just 2.36 goals a game. While their offense has taken on a new look since the return of Eichel, there’s still a glaring lack of depth up front.
No player on the Sabres has hit the 30 point plateau yet and while Kyle Okposo is just a point away Buffalo’s top forwards don;t exactly make the opposition’s defense cower in fear. Buffalo showed it’s capabilities on the offensive end in a 4-1 win over Dallas two games ago, but scoring on the Stars this season has been one of the easiest things to do for any NHL team.
If the Sabres are going to put more pucks behind the net, they need to figure out how to draw more penalties. Buffalo has been exceptional on the power play this season, humming along at a 22.14 percent rate which ranks 8th in all of hockey. If the Sabres can figure out how to translate that success to five on five play, they’d give their fans even more to cheer about.
One of Buffalo’s biggest problems is their inability to leave their own zone. Their defense are slow and relatively immobile, or prone to make mistakes based on their experience. Rasmus Ristoalinen and Zach Bogosian are both quality young defensemen capable of generating offence, but the buck stops there.
With Dmitry Kulikov and Josh Gorges injured, Jake McCabe and Cody Franson are left to pick up the pieces. While McCabe can dish out hits as well as anyone (just ask Patrik Laine), him and Franson’s ability to skate with the puck is borderline non-existent, leading hard forechecking teams like Detroit to jump all over them.
The Wings are without veteran Nicklas Kronall for a few more weeks, which may sadly be a good thing. The 36-year-old has just three points in 25 games and while his veteran leadership is immeasurable in the dressing room, his speed on the ice is starting waver.
That opens the door for Danny DeKeyser to quarterback the powerplay, and were thrilled to see how he performs. He has the speed and skill to create more room in the center of the ice and will try and help expose Buffalo’s slow defensemen.
Mike Green is also fully recovered from his injury, and expected to start putting up a few more points from the blueline. He’ll be on a line with DeKeyser for the foreseeable future which could spell trouble for the Sabres.
The good news for Detroit is that Jimmy Howard is back and skating, and cold be projected to return to the lineup as early as late January. The bad news for Detroit is that Jimmy Howard is still out.
Jared Coreau started the last game for the Wings after a few good performances as we predicted, but his inexperience was on full display an the was pulled after allowing three goals. In came Petr Mrazek who promptly let in two, and despite the win, Detroit has a big issue in net. Mrazek has a 3.15 goals against average with an .894 save percentage and will just try to weather the storm until Howard’s return.
In Buffalo the situation is just as bad, if not toxic. Robin Lehner was pulled in his last start against Toronto and let his coach know his displeasure. In came Anders Nilsson, who wasn’t much better and both goalies are struggling on the year. It’s anyones guess who makes some saves for either team on Friday.
Dylan Larkin against Jack Eichel. While it feels like Larkin has been in the league for a while now (because he has) he’s just 20 years old! That’s the same age as Eichel, who’s 17 points in 23 games are a huge indicator of his skill. Let the youth battle begin!
If the Wings are going to continue their win streak, now’s the time to do it. Detroit is 8-2 in their last ten games against Buffalo and 4-1 against the spread in their last five games. They have the firepower to beat a weak defensive team like Buffalo and are 8-1 on the road against the Sabres.
Take Detroit on the spread getting excellent odds and hope Buffalo’s defense falls apart.
Pittsburgh Penguins at Carolina Hurricanes
Pittsburgh (-130) at Carolina (EVEN)
Pittsburgh -1.5 (+230) at Carolina +1.5 (-280)
Total – Over/Under
5.5 (-135 over, +105 under)
The Penguins have officially shaken off that mini losing streak. After dropping three straight they beat back an excellent Washington team 8-7 in one of the most entertaining games of the year, and promptly followed it up with a 4-1 road win over the Canadiens.
Montreal was starting to look strong again as they got some of their injured stars back but it wasn’t enough against Matt Murray. Murray, who is still recovering from an injury, finally looked himself in the win stopping 19 of the 20 shots he faced.
That’s a very positive sign for Pittsburgh as Murray and the Penguins enter Carolina. There’s few better teams at home this season than the Hurricanes who have a record of 15-4-1 in their own building and are just one point behind the Senators for a Wild Card Spot.
Carolina has won four of their last five games, coming off a loss in Columbus to the Blue Jackets. They have a chance to prove they’re for real in the East with a home win over the Penguins, and Carolina is more than capable of completing the challenge.
Their powerplay has been great all season long, but jumps to another level against Pittsburgh. In their last ten meetings the Hurricanes have scored eight times on 34 different opportunities for a strong 23.53 percentage. Led by Jeff Skinner’s five goals the Hurricanes are capable of scoring on any team once they have the extra man on the ice.
Justin Faulk against Sidney Crosby. Faulk is still recovering from an injury he received in late December but when he’s healthy he’s Carolina’s best defenseman. Now that he’s all patched up, he’ll relish the opportunity to try and stop one of the hottest scorers in the game.
Carolina has been downright dominant at home as we talked about earlier, but this is no ordinary team they’re playing against on Friday night. The Penguins have won three straight against the Hurricanes, and as the road team are getting good odds on the spread. Take them!
Chicago Blackhawks at Boston Bruins
Chicago (+125) at Boston (-155)
Chicago 1.5 (-270) at Boston -1.5 (+220)
Total – Over/Under
5 (-145 over, +115 under)
The Blackhawks will be well rested when they skate into Boston for a date with the Bruins. They last played on January 17th in a cakewalk victory over the Avalanche. The score was 6-4, which suggests it was close, but this game was never in doubt. It was good to see Chicago’s offense open up after scoring just two goals in their two games combined previously.
An encouraging sign from Chicago was who the goals came from. Tanner Kero scored his second and third goals of the year while Vinnie Hinostroza chipped in with 5th and 6th as well. Brent Seabrook scored his third of the season from the point and even Nick Schmalztz opened up the scoring with an unassisted tally.
These are the types of performances the Blackhawks are used to getting deep into the season, and they’ll need them again on Friday against the Bruins. Boston gives up just 2.56 goals a game this season, a figure that ranks 9th among all NHL clubs.
Led by Zedeno Chara the Bruins are no strangers to shutting teams down, and scoring a few goals whelk they’re at it. Still, their powerplay could use some work. The Bruins are succeeding on just 17.45 percent of their opportunities with the extra man which is a number that just won’t fly.
Tuukka Rask against Corey Crawford. Crawford was dismal in his last outing, despite the win. He let four goals by him on just 23 shots against a bad Avalanche team, and now has to take on a Bruins club that’s much more skilled. Ask hasn’t had a successful season by his standards, but is still one of the best goalies when he’s on. He’ll try to improve his already respectable 2.11 goals against average and .919 save percentage after letting in five in his last game against Detroit.
Despite Boston’s overall record of 23-19-6 they;re just 10-11-0 at home this season. Now they have to try and defend their arena against the Blackhawks, who come in as the second best team in the West and owning a 11-9-1 record on the road. With the odds they’re getting on the spread, take Chicago to at the very least cover.
Montreal Canadiens at New Jersey Devils
Montreal (n/a) at New Jersey (n/a)
Montreal (n/a) at New Jersey (n/a)
Total – Over/Under
The Canadiens have the tendency to fly out of the gate, then come crashing back down to earth sometime during the regular season. That is starting to feel like the case again with Montreal getting hammered 4-1 by Pittsburgh in their last outing to drop two straight and watch Toronto and Boston slowly chip away at their lead in the Atlantic Division.
It’s not time to panic just yet however, Alex Galchenyuk is back in the lineup, the Canadiens still have an eight-point lead in the Atlantic, and they get to travel to New Jersey to take on the lowly Devils.
Wait what? The Devils have won three straight, all on the road, and against the Wild, Canucks and Flames? Maybe it is time to panic in Montreal. That’s right, New Jersey is enjoying a nice little win streak, and on Tuesday became became one of just five teams to beat the Wild on their home ice in regulation this season.
New Jersey has allowed just five goals in those three wins, and their goaltending is a big reason why. Cory Schneider is heating up, with back to back wins giving up just four goals during that span. He’s raised his save percentage to .910 and lowered his goals against average to 2.69 and if he continues to play at his best he gives his team a chance to win every night.
Taylor Hall against Alex Galchenyuk. Hall has been heating up during the Devils’ win streak. He now has points in four straight games after setting up a goal against Minnesota and has 29 points in 36 games this season. He’ll try and outperform Galchenyuk who is eager to get the Canadiens back in the win column after being one of their hottest scorers before his injury.
We really want to take the Devils at home, so naturally we’re not going to. Montreal’s odds on the road are just too good to ignore, and we think Carey Price turns the ship around with a shutout in New Jersey, Take the Canadiens on the spread.
Nashville Predators at Edmonton Oilers
Nashville (n/a) at Edmonton (n/a)
Nashville (n/a) at Edmonton (n/a)
Total – Over/Under
If you haven’t got a chance to watch much of McDavid and the Oilers this season then first of all you’re missing out, but second take a moment to watch this highlight pack and truly understand what makes Edmonton so fun to watch this season.
Simply put, McDavid has turned this franchise around and the Oilers and their fans finally have a team to be proud of again. Edmonton has won three straight after their latest overtime win and now sit second in the Pacific Division ahead of the Sharks with a record of 25-15-7. Now they get to take on a Predators team struggling with injuries, and seemingly incapable of winning a game on the road as evidenced by their 1-0 loss to the Canucks on Tuesday,
Those Predators also have to play in Calgary the night before and the Oilers will be licking their chops in anticipation for a tired team on the road. Nashville is missing P.K. Subban, Colin wilson, Roman Josi and Mikka Salomaki which means two of their best defensemen and two depth forwards wont be in action against the Oilers.
That’s fine for Edmonton who are dealing with a few injuries themselves with Andrew Ference, Tyler Pitlick and Darnell Nurse all sitting this one out as well.
Connor McDavid against Pekka Rinne. With Josi and Subban out, Rinne will have to be extra sharp against the league’s top scorer. He looked it against the Canucks stopped 26 shots despite letting one goal in for the lost, but he’ll need to be even better on Friday. McDavid became the fourth fastest player in history to reach 100 points on Wednesday and is truly one of the most talented players the game has ever seen.
Nashville on the road, playing on the second night of a back to back, without their two top defensemen against a red-hot McDavid and the Oilers? Yeah, we’ll take Edmonton. Try them on the spread and the moneyline to make your money work for you.
Florida Panthers at Vancouver Canucks
Florida (-110) at Vancouver (-120)
Florida +1.5 (-330) at Vancouver -1.5 (+225)
Total – Over/Under
5 (-115 over, -115 under)
The Panthers and Canucks are both experiencing very similar seasons, but going about it different ways. In Florida, after a successful campaign last year, the club is just trying to hold on while they wait for their injured stars to return. They’re just a point out of a playoff spot, and racking up enough wins to stay in the hunt as shown by their 5-4-1 record in their last ten games.
Vancouver isn’t dealing with many injuries, but their window of opportunity is closing. As the Sedin twins close in on the end of their career, they’d love a few more runs at a Stanley Cup and this could still be the season to do it. They’re tied with the Kings for the second Wild Card spot and are coming off an excellent 1-0 shutout win over the Predators.
Now they welcome the Panthers who are 9-9-6 on the road this season. The Canucks and Panthers have split the last ten games between these clubs, so no one comes in bearing any sort of real advantage.
Bo Horvat against Aaron Ekblad. Ekblad has struggled lately but is still one of the brightest young defenseman in all of hockey. He now has the unenviable task of trying to shut down one of the surprises of the season in Horvat. He’s been steady all season and sits atop the Canucks’ scoring board.
With the two teams so evenly matched, especially against each other and with both goaltenders playing well why not take a stab at the under? These two teams don’t score goals in buckets to begin with let alone against each other.
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