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Capitals to beat Senators 

Two straight losses have the Sens on their back foot again, while Washington is in the midst of a stretch where it has lost six of its last eight games. While the Caps are vulnerable with top defenseman John Carlson out amid COVID-19 protocols and others like T.J. Oshie sidelined with injury, they still have better depth than the team across the ice from them.

I think a game like this will come down to goaltending. As I write this, the two teams haven’t named a starter for the game, but regardless of who is in net, I have a bit more faith in the Capitals’ young tandem than I do the Sens. On top of that, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov in particular have been dominant offensive performers of late, which will give Ottawa a lot of problems.

The Sens have shown good push-back lately after being more of a pushover earlier in the season. They’ve gotten strong performances out of Josh Norris, Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stützle and a litany of other young players who step up. This game belongs to the home team, though. The Caps have too many veteran weapons and are too foundationally solid for me to pick against them at home.

Avalanche to beat Canadiens 

The Habs will turn to rookie goalie Cayden Primeau to spell Samuel Montembault, who has been under siege and doing everything he can to keep Montreal in games. Montembault saw more than 50 shots against in each of his last two starts and if that trend continues – and let’s face it, it probably will against Colorado – it’s a lot to ask of Primeau.

Few teams have been as decimated by injury and bad luck as the Canadiens. Now they have to go into Colorado and take on one of the most dominant teams in the league, one that is largely healthy and doesn’t have nearly the roster losses the Habs do.

Colorado is on a five-game winning streak. They have scored four or more goals in 10 of their 11 games in January. The Avs are a machine and it’s hard to see any scenario where the Habs stand a chance in this one.

Maple Leafs to beat Islanders 

The Isles will be playing with heavy hearts as franchise legend and former captain Clark Gillies passed away Friday. Gillies was a staple on Long Island and a very active alumnus who stayed close with the players. There’s no doubt they’ll want to have a great effort for him and I expect they will.

That said, the Isles are on the second half of a back-to-back after beating Arizona 4-0. The Maple Leafs have had two days between games and are coming off an effort that saw the players called out by coach Sheldon Keefe for playing “soft” and “purposeless.” Strong words, especially when delivered publicly.

You never know how something like that motivates a team, but they’ve got an opportunity to catch the Isles at the end of a schedule crunch that has seen them play five games in the last seven days. This is the final game of a six-game road swing that saw Toronto lose three of the first five. I’d expect them to come out with some purpose this time around.

Flames to beat Oilers 

If it didn’t seem to happen so regularly to this organization, the seven-game losing streak that has the Oilers spiraling out of control as their playoff hopes circle the drain, it would be even more stunning. But there’s just something about Edmonton in the years since they went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006 that has never been quite right. But watching them squander two of the NHL’s very best players is particularly troubling.

The Flames, meanwhile, stopped a stumble of their own. They had lost four straight games before trouncing Florida 5-1. They’ve had three days between games, which gives them plenty of time to prepare for their reeling opponents and Albertan rivals.

Calgary has had to get itself into desperation mode as it chases a playoff spot. The Flames currently sit fifth in the division. That win over Florida, which has been rolling of late, should be a big confidence booster. Getting a win in the Battle of Alberta might be another springboard moment for this team, which puts a lot of pressure on this game.

The Oilers won the first game of the series on the first day of the season, but the teams are in such different spots than they were then. Edmonton is likely going to have to turn to Mikko Koskinen in net once again due to Mike Smith being injured and Stuart Skinner being in COVID-19 protocol. Koskinen has not been able to play at a level that gives Edmonton a chance to win.

I just don’t know how Edmonton slams the brakes on this skid they’re on right now.