NHL picks: 4 best bets for Thursday
Chris Peters makes four money line picks for Thursday night's NHL action.
Panthers to beat Canadiens
The Habs have had a few extra days to prepare for the Panthers, but the Cats will be even better rested with five days between games. Recharged and winners of seven of their last nine, Florida is bolstered by the arrival of Claude Giroux, picked up before the NHL trade deadline. On top of that, the Cats will also have Ben Chiarot for the first time and he will be going head-to-head with his former team for his first game in new colors. You know that lineup will be juiced.
The Panthers were aggressive at the trade deadline and that can be energizing for the players already there. They didn’t have to lose too much off of their current roster, though the injury to Aaron Ekblad is something that will be difficult to weather.
Montreal continues to play improved hockey, but one of the best teams in the NHL just got better. The depth between the two sides isn’t close, which is why you’d expect a big win for Florida here. I think the Habs can keep it relatively close, but the visitors are stacked and well-rested, which is a bad combo for the Habs.
Jets to beat Senators
The Sens have lost seven of their last six games and have struggled mightily away from home with a 10-17-3 record. Despite the Jets losing some pieces at the trade deadline, they’ve won four of their last five games and have not given up the fight to get into the postseason, trailing Dallas by three points for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Winnipeg has everything to play for, they’re on home ice and they’re about as hot as they’ve been all season. Connor Hellebuyck is coming off of a shutout of the Golden Knights where he essentially stole the game for Winnipeg. He probably won’t have to steal this one, but when he’s sharp like that, he’s tough to beat.
This is a motivated hockey club. Meanwhile, the Sens lost more pieces at the trade deadline including Nick Paul, but did bring back Mathieu Joseph in that particular deal. There’s some adjustments going on, but the Sens still haven’t quite had the consistency offensively or in the goaltending position that gives one much faith they’ll find a way to grab points in this game.
Wild to beat Canucks
The Wild are still getting new acquisition Marc-Andre Fleury acclimated and are expected to start Cam Talbot in net. The Canucks, meanwhile, are coming off of an emotional road win over the Colorado Avalanche with backup Jaroslav Halak in net. That was a statement win, but they now have to go into another tough environment and try to find a way to come out with two points.
Minnesota is in the midst of an extended home stand and had two days between games. That little bit of rest certainly helps, especially when they’ve won three straight games and been particularly stingy, allowing no more than two goals in each of those games. They’re rolling and they’ve gotten some quality trade deadline additions in Fleury and defenseman Jacob Middleton.
The Canucks looked really good in that win over Colorado, though, and they’ll have No. 1 goalie Thatcher Demko going against Minnesota. Demko has only played Minnesota once in his career so far and got a win in that one. But he’s going to have a road-weary team in front of him.
I think the schedule works too well in favor of the Wild as they continue to surge a bit. On top of that, their GM just gave them a huge vote of confidence.
Oilers to beat Sharks
The Oilers have stumbled with two straight losses where lapses led to their demise. The Sharks, meanwhile, have won two straight. The Oilers really need to keep this streak to a minimum as they are fairly comfortable in third place in the Pacific. They can’t rest, though.
The Sharks are in spoiler mode anymore, well outside of the playoff picture. They sold off some pieces at the trade deadline including depth defenseman Jacob Middleton. While they may be winding down in terms of competitiveness, the team has played well enough to make it tough on their opponents.
Edmonton won the only previous meeting between these two clubs, with goalie Stuart Skinner picking up a shutout. Skinner is currently in the AHL, while Edmonton looks to Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen to steady the ship.
San Jose, meanwhile, will give Kaapo Kahkonen his first start since joining the club. He was part of the return for parting with Jacob Middleton. Kahkonen will get a chance to start for the Sharks in the short term as he looks to earn the No. 1 role. He has a lot of work to do, but this opportunity could reinvigorate him.
If Edmonton weren’t on home ice, I might consider a San Jose upset here, but the Oilers have been much better at home with a 19-12-0 record. This game is too important to the Oilers for them to have another letdown like they did against Dallas on Tuesday.