NHL picks: 4 best bets for Thursday
Chris Peters makes four money line picks for Thursday night's NHL action.
Avalanche to beat Canadiens
The Avs got absolutely trounced Wednesday night in Toronto. Normally I’d not pick a team that is playing on the road in the second half of a back-to-back, but I wouldn’t like to be the Habs right now. Colorado lost 8-3 in a game they were never really in against Toronto, but they also had backup Jonas Johansson in net and he couldn’t seem to make a stop for them.
The goaltending conundrum the Avs are in now that starter Darcy Kuemper is injured and regular backup Pavel Francouz is in the minors on a conditioning assignment is definitely a concern. The team can either go back to Johansson after he had eight goals hung on him or they could go to rookie Justus Annunen, who has been on a roll lately in the AHL but has never made an NHL start.
No matter who is in net, the Habs have been one of the NHL’s worst scoring attacks, currently ranking 29th in goals for per game. On top of that, I think the Avs are going to play a lot better in front of their netminder to try and bounce back from being embarrassed by Toronto. I think there’s a ton more risk in playing the Avs here than there would normally be, but I still like Colorado to go into Montreal and take two points against the four-win Habs.
Hurricanes to beat Senators
It’s bleak in Ottawa right now. The Sens went 1-10-1 in November. They haven’t taken the step many thought they would this year and there’s really no relief in sight. Meanwhile, Carolina has been one of the best teams in the league this year despite being in the midst of a 1-3-1 stretch to close out November.
This is a matchup nightmare for the Sens, which has been the league’s worst road team so far this season with a 1-7-1 record as the away side. The Sens have averaged just 2.44 goals per game on the road, while allowing 4.22 per game. It’s not a good situation to be in against one of the league’s deeper clubs.
The Canes have had some significant issues on the blue line of late as Tony DeAngelo, Ethan Bear and Brett Pesce have all been out due to health protocols. The forward group has largely been unaffected, though, and when you look up and down that Carolina forward lineup, it’s hard not to think they’ll find a way on home ice against Ottawa.
Flames to beat Kings
Calgary has been one of the best stories in the NHL this season. They’re 13-4-5 and have been one of the toughest teams to score against this season. They’ve also been the NHL’s best road team with a 9-2-2 record as the away side. They’re outscoring opponents 45-22 on the road, too. It’s been a pretty remarkable performance overall.
The Kings have been very average at home and are coming off of a 5-4 shootout loss to their rival Anaheim Ducks. The Kings started November with five consecutive wins, but closed it out with a 1-3-3 record, with all but one of those games coming on home ice. They’re heading into the wrong direction as they take on one of the league’s best teams.
This game will be a little extra special for the Flames, too, as head coach Darryl Sutter is returning to Los Angeles where he coached the Kings to two Stanley Cups for the first time since he returned to coaching last season. I’m sure there will be a little extra motivation in the Calgary locker room to help their bench boss get one over on his old club.
With the expectation that Jacob Markstrom is going to get the start, I like the Flames to win in this one by making it especially difficult for the Kings to cut through their defense.
Wild to beat Devils
The Wild are rolling right now with four straight wins, including one against the Devils. Minnesota won that first meeting between the two sides as the visitor, getting a 3-2 shootout victory in a game where goalie Cam Talbot had to be sharp and was. He had 40 saves in that one and is the expected – but not yet confirmed – starter for Thursday night’s contest.
The Devils will have an important piece that they didn’t have in that last game, though – 2019 No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes is back in the lineup, which should help New Jersey’s scoring attack. They did lose his first game back, 5-2, though.
Still, with the Wild on home ice, I like their chances. They’re 8-2-0, owners of the fourth-best points percentage on home ice this season. The Wild also own a plus-16 goal differential, averaging 4.60 goals per game on home ice, which ranks second in the NHL.
New Jersey has been a straight .500 on the road with a 3-3-2 record. They’ve really struggled to produce away from home, tied for the second fewest road goals so far this season.
With the Wild rolling as they have been, it’s hard to pick against them right now.