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I got back to the right side of .500 on the week last night as I hit my UNDER 5 prediction between the Montreal Canadiens and Minnesota Wild. Things certainly did not get started off on a good note as the Wild scored just 19 seconds in to the game, putting an early scare into an already low total of just five. However, as expected Carey Price basically shut the door on the Wild and only gave up one more goal on the evening. In fact, I’m of the opinion that this goal should not have counted as the puck clearly hit the stick of Jason Pominville above the crossbar, however the War Room in Toronto saw it differently and allowed the goal to stand. Nonetheless, the final score ended up 2-1 for Minnesota and we easily won this bet. Tonight we have 11 games on the NHL schedule to comb through and find ourselves a couple of winners.
New Jersey Devils @ Toronto Maple Leafs
My Pick – LEAFS -.5 IN REGULATION (-109)
The Leafs and Devils collide tonight in Toronto for the first of three tilts between the two Eastern Conference clubs this season. The Leafs come in to the contest red-hot as they have not lost a game in regulation since they were blown out 9-2 by the Nashville Predators on November the 18th. The Devils on the other hand come in to tonight’s game with both the injury and flu bugs decimating their lineup. Jaromir Jagr will miss tonight’s game not due to a concussion he may have suffered after being blasted late by Robert Bortuzzo of Pittsburgh the other night, but because of an illness and dehydration. Defenseman Adam Larsson will join Jagr on the sidelines with the flu bug, and veteran Patrick Elias will be out after sustaining a lower-body injury against the Penguins. Needless to say, this Devils team is ripe for the taking. They will be tasked with attempting to quiet Toronto’s second-ranked offense after the Leafs put five goals up on Dallas Tuesday night at the ACC. The Leafs are prone to defensive lapses at any given moment, however the Devils score just 2.28 goals per game this season and historically are not an offensive-machine type of squad. The Devils will be especially vulnerable on the penalty kill tonight as the Leafs powerplay has turned a corner after a dry spell, and the Devils kill penalties at just a 75.3% clip. The Leafs have all four of their lines going and are an extremely dangerous team at the moment. They have beaten the Devils in regulation in 8 of their last 12 chances at the Air Canada Centre, going 8-0-4. I am expecting more of the same this evening, so take the Leafs over New Jersey in regulation time.
Buffalo Sabres @ Tampa Bay Lightning
My Pick – OVER 5.5 (+125)
Losing this exact pick earlier in the week has not deterred me whatsoever. The Lightning and Sabres meet for the second time in three nights tonight, but this time the game is in Tampa Bay, the location where the Lightning tee off on opposing defences and goaltenders. Their 10-2-1 home record suggests they are nearly untouchable at the St. Pete Times Forum, and if you have watched this team play at home, this comes as no surprise. Four straight home victories and 8 wins in their last 9 home games has been the result of an unstoppable Lightning offensive attack. I need not repeat what I wrote on Tuesday regarding the depth of the Lightning offense, but what I will say is Steven Stamkos has been held off the scoresheet in back-to-back games, and I’m not sure how often the Lightning sniper goes without scoring in three straight, but my guess is it rarely happens. I expect a Stamkos-lead Lightning offense to pepper whoever gets the nod in net tonight for the Sabres. On a Buffalo note, the team has most certainly improved a great deal since opening the season on a worst-team-ever sort of pace, and they now reside as one of the NHL’s hottest clubs. Even better for this pick as we can likely expect scoring from both teams, but this pick is made with the expectation that a Lightning team that averages 3.5 goals per game will score in bunches. Take the OVER 5.5 tonight at a fantastic price and watch the goals pile in.