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A light schedule forced me out of action last night as I just didn’t really feel comfortable with anything that I saw across the board. That is not to say that it wasn’t a busy day in the NHL as there were three fairly significant deals that went down and they all involved players and teams that have been involved in the rumor mill for some time now. The Carolina Hurricanes were the busiest team as they shipped unrestricted free agent Andrej Sekera to the Kings for a first round pick and a prospect while dealing fellow UFA Jiri Tlustly to the Winnipeg Jets for a pair of draft picks. The Leafs dealt forward Daniel Winnik to the Penguins for a couple of draft picks and grinder Zach Sill, completing the task of trading their pending UFA’s before Monday’s trade deadline. It seems a good chunk of the expected deals have already taken place, furthering the trend of GM’s wanting to do their deals with time to spare rather than coming up against the clock on March 2nd. With the off-ice stuff summarized, let’s turn our focus back on to the ice for tonight’s nine-game schedule.
Philadelphia Flyers @ Toronto Maple Leafs
My Pick – OVER 5.5 (+100)
A battle of two Eastern Conference teams on the outside of the playoff picture looking in is on tap this evening in Toronto as the Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs meet for the third and final time this season. Unlike the Leafs, the Flyers could still be playoff bound as they have picked up points in eight of their last ten contests but they dropped a disappointing game in Carolina on Tuesday night that they needed to have. It was unlike the Flyers to score just a single goal in a game against a team sitting at the bottom of the standings, and as indicated by this pick, I do not expect a repeat of that performance tonight. The last time Philly played in Toronto they pumped seven goals in to the Toronto net and didn’t exactly display top-caliber defense either as they surrendered four goals themselves. Jakob Voracek was arguably the NHL’s most dangerous offensive player in the season’s first half and although he has been quiet lately, he has not been so quiet against Toronto. Voracek has 12 points in 13 career games against the Leafs and ten points over his last six games in Toronto. Robb Zepp gets his fourth straight start in goal tonight and the results of his play have been mixed at best. Zepp surrendered four goals against a Hurricanes team that averaged slightly over 2 goals per game this season on Tuesday and his sub-.900 save percentage leaves the door open for the Leafs to score some goals this evening. More than likely Toronto’s top powerplay unit of Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk will be able to expose a Philly penalty kill that sits 28th in the league at 76% and a Philly powerplay that sits third-best in the NHL at 23.3% looms dangerous tonight as well. It seems whenever these two meet in Toronto it is a track meet, and I am expecting more of the same this evening at a solid price.
Ottawa Senators @ Los Angeles Kings
My Pick – KINGS -1.5 (+115)
After surprising the world last night with their 3-0 shutout victory over the Anaheim Ducks, the Ottawa Senators will try their luck against another Western Conference powerhouse tonight in the form of the Los Angeles Kings. Things may prove much more difficult this evening for the Sens as Los Angeles has rattled off eight straight wins and look more and more like the team that lifted the Stanley Cup two of the last three seasons. The Kings are winning games the way they have done it for the majority of the last several seasons and that is team defense. That trait was put to perfection on Tuesday night against the Detroit Red Wings as a Kings goal just two and a half minutes in to the game was all they needed as they shutout the Wings 1-0 at the Staples Center. Jonathan Quick boasts a 1.63 goals against average over this eight-game winning streak and it looks as if he will once again be the goaltender of choice against the Senators. Quick has a career 2.18 goals against average against Ottawa and the Kings have won 12 of their last 14 home games, including a tie, against the Sens. Rookie Andrew Hammond will likely be making another start tonight as Ottawa’s third string goaltender is coming off of his first career NHL shutout last night in Anaheim. However, the numbers show that when the same goaltender plays on back to back nights, the results are disastrous. Playing in back-to-back games is one thing, but being a rookie third string goaltender with minimal NHL experience playing against the Ducks and the Kings on the road in a back-to-back situation is quite another beast. The Sens have been playing well of late and a lot of that does have to do with the surprisingly strong play of Hammond, however this is not a building where teams are kindly welcomed by the Kings. Take L.A. to win their ninth straight game against a tired Senators team by at least two goals.