NHL Games of the Week

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The Florida Panthers and Columbus Blue Jackets picked a good time to get hot and their winning streaks have elevated them in the Eastern Conference standings. A few weeks ago the Jackets were left for dead, but nine consecutive wins later, they are threatening for first-place in the Metropolitan Division. The playoff races in both conferences can change daily depending on the outcome of games and the Panthers have climbed into the race. The two square off Thursday night in a crucial Eastern Conference matchup.

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The Flyers and Penguins are in the thick of the East playoff race, just adding to the tension that the battle of Pennsylvania already carries. Both teams have been struggling of late with the Penguins falling from the top spot in the Metro and the Flyers dropping into a wild card position. One team will break out of its recent slumber, and like most games in the series it should be entertaining.


Florida Panthers at Columbus Blue Jackets

Date and Time: Thursday, March 22, 2018, 7 p.m. ET
Location: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, OH
Opening NHL Game Odds: Check the latest NHL betting odds
Panthers at Blue Jackets TV Coverage: FSN

A matchup between two of the hottest teams in the NHL takes place on Thursday. The Panthers won for the 11th time in 14 games with a 7-2 rout of Ottawa on Tuesday to close within a point of the second wild card spot. It’s a position that few saw this team in a few months ago when it was floundering. The offense has picked up behind Nick Bjugstad, who has six goals and 10 points in his last eight games and the return from injury of goalie Roberto Luongo has settled things down between the pipes. He has nine wins and two shutouts since coming back last month.

The only team hotter than Florida is the Blue Jackets, who won their ninth straight game by knocking off the Rangers on Tuesday night, getting a hat trick from Artemi Panarin to cap the 5-3 victory. Columbus has vaulted into a tie with the Penguins for second in the Metro and is just four points behind the Capitals for first. The offense is having an awakening in Columbus with the Jackets scoring 38 goals during their winning streak.

Key Stat

2.17 – The Panthers put up a seven-spot in a win over Ottawa, but that’s the exception and not the norm over their last 14 games. The defense and goaltending have been spectacular during the run that’s lifted Florida near a playoff spot, and it’s coincided with the return of Luongo. They’ve allowed just 31 goals in that span for a 2.17 goals against average, with Luongo picking up a pair of shutouts and James Reimer getting another. The Panthers have allowed two goals or fewer in nine of those games.

Panthers at Blue Jackets Free Picks

We’ve seen both teams hit the back of the net quite often during their recent runs. However, both clubs are still defensive-minded with quality goaltending. Each side could be minus a key piece as well. Seth Jones is nursing an injury and likely won’t play on Columbus’ back line while Florida’s Vincent Trochek has missed a few games. The Jackets won the first two meetings and they are scorching hot, which leads me to believe they get the victory.

Panthers at Blue Jackets ATS Pick: Blue Jackets

Panthers at Blue Jackets Score Prediction: Blue Jackets 4, Panthers 3


Philadelphia Flyers at Pittsburgh Penguins

Date and Time: Sunday, March 25, 2018, 12:30 p.m. ET
Location: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
Opening NHL Game Odds: Check out the latest NHL betting odds
Flyers vs. Penguins TV Coverage: NBC

Following a 1-6-1 skid that sent the Flyers reeling in the Metro, they’ve secured points in three straight games to temporarily halt the bleeding. But goaltending remains a huge question mark and teams rarely win consistently without quality netminding. The loss of Brian Elliott hurt and when Michal Neuvirth went down a brief time later, the Flyers were scrambling. They acquired Peter Mrazek in a deal with Detroit, but he’s been erratic after a solid start. Mrazek was pulled in the second period against his former team after surrendering three goals on five shots in the second period.

The Penguins have one of the most potent offenses in the league with snipers Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel getting feeds from Sydney Crosby. Pittsburgh scores 3.2 goals per game and owns the league’s best power-play with a conversion rate of 25.7 percent. And they now have No. 1 netminder Matt Murray back between the pipes. Murray missed nine games and returned in a 4-1 loss to the Islanders, though he stopped 36 shots.

Key Stat

25.7 – The Penguins score a lot of goals because they are able to convert with the man-advantage. They lead the league in power-play goals and power-play percentage and have at least one extra-man goal in each of the three games against the Flyers. The Pens have converted on 4 of 11 power-play chances, taking advantage of Philly’s 27th-ranked penalty kill.

Flyers vs. Penguins Free Picks

So many games are decided by special teams play and the Penguins certainly have the advantage in that department. The Pens have the best power-play in the NHL and the Flyers are near the bottom in killing penalties. And Philly has allowed the second-most shorthanded goals. If the Flyers can stay out of the box they have a better chance of winning this game. But the Pens have plenty of firepower and they have Murray back between the pipes, which gives them the advantage.

Flyers vs. Penguins ATS Pick: Penguins

Flyers vs. Penguins Score Prediction: Penguins 5, Flyers 2

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