NHL picks: 4 best bets for Thursday
Chris Peters makes four money line picks for Thursday night's NHL action.
Florida Panthers to beat Tampa Bay Lightning
NHL hockey is back for the most part, though there are still some games postponed here and there. This game between the NHL’s two Florida-based teams should be a great way to really get back into the thick of the season.
Both the Lightning and the Panthers earned victories in their first games back after the extended break. The Lightning struggled a bit with the Montreal Canadiens, but held on for a 5-4 win in overtime on Tuesday, while the Panthers played a tight game but beat the New York Rangers 4-3 Wednesday night. Locked in a battle for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, there are two valuable points on the line.
Florida has almost its full roster available, while the Lightning still have a number of players absent due to COVID-19 protocols, including both of their regular goaltenders. Maxime Legace and rookie Hugo Alnefelt are currently with the team at the moment. The Lightning are leaning on a large number of players from their AHL team to fill out the many empty roster spots. It worked against Montreal, but I don’t think it will work against a team as loaded and healthy as the Panthers.
There could be some Lightning players added back to the mix, but I still like Florida in this one thanks to their depth.
Carolina Hurricanes to beat Montreal Canadiens
The Hurricanes have not played a game since Dec. 18 and will likely be without goaltender Frederik Andersen, but most of the rest of their roster is expected to be available for Thursday night’s contest. Meanwhile, Montreal is coming off of a tough loss to the shorthanded Lightning, 5-4 in OT on Tuesday.
While I think there are some advantages for Montreal having already played a game, the depth and talent that the Hurricanes boast may be too much for the Habs to contend with. All of Carolina’s top players, except for Andersen, are ready to go. Meanwhile, Montreal is still down a huge number of top players due to injury or protocol issues.
It’s a mismatch on paper. I may consider looking at the puck line for this one.
Calgary Flames to beat Seattle Kraken
The Kraken will be playing their second of a back-to-back after an overtime loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, while Calgary will be playing their first game in 19 days. Even though the Flames are on the road here and slid into their extended pause with three straight losses, I like the well-rested team coming in to play another on the second half of a back-to-back. As far as we know, Calgary has its full lineup available right now, too.
Seattle additionally has lost forward Brandon Tanev for the remainder of the season due to an injury and has at least three additional players currently in COVID-19 protocols. They don’t have much depth to begin with, but are really hurting for it now.
Calgary, meanwhile, is sitting in third place in the Pacific Division and looking to get back on track. All that’s left now is to hope players that have been off to hot starts like Andrew Mangiapane and Johnny Gaudreau won’t have cooled off with the disruption to the season.
The Kraken have really struggled as an expansion franchise this year, currently sitting a distant last in the Pacific Division. Any hopes they’d match the Vegas Golden Knights’ early success were pretty quickly extinguished. It could be a long year as the expansion franchise tries to find its way.
Vancouver Canucks to beat Los Angeles Kings
The Kings came out of the extended break with a rough loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, while the Canucks earned a hard-fought 2-1 win over Anaheim in OT. They still haven’t lost a game under head coach Bruce Boudreau.
The problem for both teams is that they’re both still missing some key players due to injury or COVID protocols. At this point, I think the Kings’ losses may be more significant than the Canucks are dealing with, though Brock Boeser is a significant guy to have out of the lineup. The Kings are on home ice, which helps, and the Canucks will be playing the second of a back-to-back, but they’ve really been rolling under Boudreau.
With how Vancouver has played and how much they’ve seemed to find their way under Boudreau, I think they’re going to find a way to pull off a Southern California sweep.
Canucks and Flames both to win