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After a few days off including last night where there were just two games on the schedule, we are back at it tonight with my NHL predictions. Most recently, I went 2-0 on Thursday night as the Philadelphia Flyers handily beat the visiting Florida Panthers in regulation time, avenging a tough loss at Florida earlier in the year with a 4-1 victory on home ice. We also had the Lightning and Flames to go OVER the 5.5 goal total and also came away with victory there. There were five goals scored before the game was even 25 minutes old, and two third period markers from the Lightning helped push the total over 5.5, concluding with a 5-2 Tampa Bay win over the visiting Flames. With plenty of action on tonight’s slate there are lots of opportunities to build on a very successful evening.
San Jose Sharks @ Florida Panthers
My Pick – SHARKS -.5 IN REGULATION (+110)
The Sharks travel to Sunrise, Florida tonight to take on the Florida Panthers for the first of two meetings within ten days between the two clubs. Last season’s series between San Jose and Florida resulted in a split, with each team winning on the road. Both games could have easily gone to San Jose as they shut out Florida on the road, and Roberto Luongo made a whopping 52 saves to clinch a 3-2 victory in the rematch at the Shark Tank in San Jose. Tonight’s matchup sees the Sharks play their third game of a seven-game road trip after dropping a 5-2 road decision to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night. A rebound game is in order for San Jose here tonight as the Sharks looks to take advantage of a Panthers team that is starving for offense. In fact, Florida’s leading scorers have just six points on the season. There leading goals scorer has just three tucks this year. To put that in perspective, San Jose has nine players on their roster with six or more points and eight players who have three or more goals this season. The Sharks top trio of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski have a combined 49 points in 59 career games against Florida. That list doesn’t even include the Sharks leading scorer in Logan Couture who has tallied 16 points in as many games this year, and Brent Burns who has 15 points in 16 games to rank amongst the NHL leaders by defensemen. The high-powered Sharks offense will surely take advantage of a Panthers team that averages just 1.67 goals per gamer tonight in regulation time.
Buffalo Sabres @ St. Louis Blues
My Pick – BLUES – 1.5 (-130)
Polar opposites collide tonight in St. Louis as the lowly Buffalo Sabres will take on the Western Conference powerhouse St. Louis Blues. Just like the Panthers, this is a Sabres team that is absolutely starving for any offense whatsoever. The Sabres put up a measly 1.12 goals per game this season, and if that isn’t bad enough, the Blues surrender just 1.93 goals per game. The special teams battle is also heavily slanted towards the Blues as Buffalo has tallied just a pair of powerplay goals this season (both by Drew Stafford), while the Blues connect on almost 25% of their opportunities with the man advantage. The play of Michael Neuvirth in net for the Sabres has been their only bright spot of late, however he still plays behind the Sabres defence who give up 3.31 goals per game and are up against two goaltenders for St. Louis that have goals against averages of 2.06 and 1.40 this season. St. Louis has been one of the better defensive teams in the NHL for a few years now after Ken Hitchcock took over behind the bench for Davis Payne. St. Louis also has the added benefit of Vladamir Tarakseno’s torrid stretch that recently resulted in him earning NHL third star of the week honors. If you saw his goals from the past week or so you will wonder how he did not win first star. The kid is simply on fire and I have yet to see a player this season that has improved so dramatically (not like he was too shabby before, either). The odds aren’t great but this is still a winning pick. Take the Blues to dominate the Sabres and come out on top by at least a pair.