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Bruins to beat Wild

In the midst of a five-game slide, the Minnesota Wild have had five days to regroup from a disappointing Winter Classic performance. The Bruins, meanwhile, have surged out of the break with three consecutive wins and will have the benefit of home ice on Thursday night.

The Wild have been dealing with a lot of COVID-19 protocols and injuries. They just recalled their top two prospects from the AHL in Marco Rossi and Matt Boldy. They’re getting a bit more desperate for skill as they’ve seen their offensive attack dry up a bit.

The Bruins have had very little trouble scoring of late as they have 14 goals over their last three games. The Wild will be the best team they’ve faced on paper, but there’s something to be said for the momentum they have generated.

It is expected Jeremy Swayman will get the start and the rookie has performed well this season with a .920 save percentage in 15 appearances. With the Wild bleeding goals as they have over this most recent stretch of the season, which was broken up by the pause, Swayman should be more than adequate with the goal support I’d expect the Bruins to give him.

Lightning to beat Flames

Calgary has been one of the better road teams in the NHL this season, but the Lightning are starting to get back to full strength after a bunch of players were in and out of COVID-19 protocols. On top of that, it appears that former MVP Nikita Kucherov will be in the lineup for the first time since being on IR for the last few months. He hasn’t yet been confirmed to play, but it sounds very likely he will, so keep an eye on that.

When a player like that comes into the lineup, it can really boost a team. The Lightning also just broke out of a three-game skid with an emphatic 7-2 win over Columbus on the road. Now back on home ice, I don’t know if the opponent would really matter all that much.

With the Lightning back to nearly full strength, it’s hard to pick against them here.

Penguins to beat Flyers

After collecting points in seven straight games, the Flyers have lost the last two in relatively ugly fashion. On top of that, they’re dealing with a multitude of players in COVID-19 protocol, as well as the injuries they already had. I thought Philly was going to turn a corner, but now bad luck is taking over.

I still think the Flyers have a good chance in this one tonight, with the Pens on the second half of a back-to-back, but Pittsburgh is absolutely rolling right now. Sidney Crosby went into “beast-mode” as coach Mike Sullivan proclaimed after Wednesday’s comeback win over the Blues. Once Crosby gets rolling, he tends not to stop.

The Pens have won nine straight, including two after the extended holiday pause. They’ve scored 13 goals over their last two games. I’m just not sure Philly has the horses to contend with that.

Avalanche to beat Jets

Two of my favorite teams to track in the Central Division, the Avalanche and the Jets are both quality clubs with good offensive spark. Winnipeg has won its first two coming out of the extended COVID pause, while the Avs can say the same.

I think the two clubs are pretty close, which is why I like the home team a bit better in this particular match-up. The Avalanche are second in the NHL in points percentage on home ice. They’ve lost just three times in 14 games at Ball Arena. On top of that, all of their big guns are going, especially defenseman Cale Makar who scored one of the best goals of the season in overtime against Chicago the other night.

Winnipeg has been very average away from home, too. Neither team is depleted at this moment and both can play with a lot of pace. It should be an entertaining game, but I’ll take the Avs in this one.

BETWAY BOOST: Bruins, Lightning, Penguins and Avalanche all to win