Whilst the NHL may be the most difficult of the four major sports to pick winners, this season is proving to be even harder than most. In many ways, the league is turning into a bit of a crap shoot. With games coming thick and fast, don’t expect that to change any time soon.
Still, Casino Review has taken a stab at picking out three winners from Thursday night’s 12-game bonanza. Read on to see who we like on the ice tonight.
New York Islanders @ New York Rangers
7:00 PM ET
Highly-touted ahead of the season, the New York Rangers will look to turnaround a choppy start to the year on Thursday night with the arrival of long-term city rivals, the Islanders.
The Rangers (4-5-0, 8pts) fell to the Devils 3-1 in New Jersey on Tuesday, marking a second loss in three games. John Tortorella’s side is 3-2-0 at Madison Square Garden, with both those losses coming against Pittsburgh.
The Islanders (4-4-1, 9pts) may have dropped two straight games, but the team has won its last two road games, and has gone 3-0-1 away from Nassau Coliseum so far this season. Jack Capuano’s side will be well aware of its recent shortcomings in the World’s Most Famous Arena. The Islanders have dropped seven straight on Broadway.
The Rangers enter the game with the NHL’s worst power play rating. The side has scored just three goals in 35 attempts (8.6 percent). The Islanders penalty killing unit meanwhile has prevented 90.3 percent of chances. It may be time for the Islanders to score a rare win in the Garden.
Last Season: The Rangers won four times against the Islanders last season, including a shootout win. The Islanders won twice, including an overtime win. The Rangers won all three games at Madison Square Garden.
This Season: This will be the first of four games between the two New York teams.
Moneyline: NY Islanders (+153), NY Rangers (-168) Total: 5½
Take: NY RANGERS – Take the Rangers to fend-off the Islanders in this one. With neither team particularly strong on defense, take the total to go over.
Tampa Bay Lightning @ New Jersey Devils
7:00 PM ET
Tampa Bay (6-3-0, 12pts) currently sits atop the Southeast Division, which may just be the weakest division in hockey (although the Northwest will give it a run for its money). The Lightning won’t care about how weak the division is.
New Jersey (5-1-3, 13pts) is nestled one-point behind Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Division, the toughest division in hockey. The Devils won’t care how strong the division is.
The two sides meet at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on Thursday night in a game that means a lot already, even this early in the season. The Lightning will look to make the most of its status as the NHL’s top-scoring side (4.4 GPG) and number one power play team. The side has scored 13 times in 40 attempts (32.5 percent).
The Devils meanwhile will look to continue to build around solid goaltending . The pairing of Martin Brodeau (.907 SV%, 2.51GAA) and Johan Hedberg (.980 SV%, 0.48GAA) have combined for a team save percentage of .922 and a pair of shutouts.
Last Season: New Jersey took three of four games from the Lightning last season. The two sides split a pair at the Prudential Center.
This Season: This game will be the first of three between the two sides this season.
Moneyline: Tampa Bay (+115), New Jersey (-125) Total: 5½
Take: NEW JERSEY – The Devils are tough to score against and the Lightning has struggled scoring over the last two games. Add to that the fact that New Jersey has won eight of the last 10 against Tampa Bay when playing in Newark and you have the recipe for a Devils win. Take the total to go under, thanks to New Jersey’s defense.
Chicago Blackhawks @ Phoenix Coyotes
9:00 PM ET
Still unbeaten in regulation this season, Chicago (8-0-2, 18pts) takes on a Phoenix (4-4-2, 10pts) side that is just looking to remain in the playoff picture.
As it stands, the Coyotes are one-point shy of the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference. Just making the playoffs would be a middle finger salute to bookmakers who believe the Coyotes don’t stand a chance. Of course, there’s a long way to go.
Chicago’s league-best 18 points has been built up on excellent offense and even better defense. The Blackhawks rank sixth in goals scored (3.2 GPG) and fourth in goals allowed (2.1 GPG). Add to that a team that has the best penalty killing record in the league (94.9 percent) and you have a team that’s hard to beat.
Phoenix – very much a middle of the road sort of team – will find it difficult on Thursday night, although with two shutouts to its name – something the Blackhawks have not achieved – the side can turn on the defense at times.
Last Season: Phoenix took three of four games from Chicago last season, including a shootout win. The two sides split a pair played in Glendale, Ariz.
This Season: Chicago defeated the Coyotes 6-4 in Phoenix on Jan. 20. The two sides will face off once more after tonight’s game.
Moneyline: Chicago (-105), Phoenix (-105) Total: 5
Take: CHICAGO – Phoenix’s two-game winning streak is about to come to an abrupt ending. Before that, the Coyotes were a middle-of-the-road 2-2-2 and that sort of record could get a lot worse shortly. Take the total to go over in this one.
Remaining NHL Schedule (Thursday)
Montreal @ Buffalo
Florida @ Philadelphia
Washington @ Pittsburgh
Calgary @ Columbus
Carolina @ Ottawa
Toronto @ Winnipeg
Detroit @ St. Louis
Los Angeles @ Nashville
Vancouver @ Minnesota