NHL Previews: Contenders Lock Horns
Top contenders from four divisions mix it up Thursday when San Jose renews its Stanley Cup rivalry with Pittsburgh and Washington heads south to play the Florida Panthers. Here's how the NHL betting matchups look.
San Jose Sharks at Pittsburgh Penguins
This is the first meeting of the Stanley Cup finalists since last year and a chance for the Sharks to test their slightly new wings against the foes they couldn't figure out last year. The Sharks added defenseman David Schlemko and speedy winger Mikkel Boedker during the offseason to counter some of the Pens' strengths. But Sharks center Joe Pavelski has been getting scoring help from defenseman Brent Burns.
Sidney Crosby's concussion has the defending Cup champs insecure about their future. But as they look forward to Crosby's return, the Pens seem to have missed little. Their depth has been on display with 10 players contributing points.
San Jose (3-1-0) is in the middle of a tough five-game road swing and off of a 3-2 win at the New York Islanders on Tuesday. Goalkeeper Martin Jones got a rest for that one after being shelled in a 7-4 loss to the Rangers on the weekend. Pittsburgh (2-1-1) went to Montreal on Tuesday and was scalded, 4-0. Marc-Andre Fleury had been serving well in goal for injured Matt Murray up to that point. But both of these teams seem up to the task of repeating playoff runs. The Sharks will certainly be out for revenge for last year's finals loss, but how far that will get them on Pittsburgh ice is hard to say. I'm looking for the Penguins to bounce back at home and be worth -130 or better in NHL betting.
Washington Capitals at Florida Panthers
These two ruled the Eastern Conference regular season last year, before being humbled in the playoffs. They're back in their quests. The Caps broke out of their scoring and power play troubles on Tuesday with Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie getting their first goals, both on man advantages. Braden Holtby has stood tall in goal.
Jaromir Jagr and Jussi Jokenin have had a slow start, but the Panthers have picked up dividends from signing center Jonathan Marchessault, who has four points in three games.
The hard-fought 4-3 overtime loss at rival Tampa on Tuesday may have left the Panthers (2-0-1) on the weary side. With Washington's first line breaking the ice in the 3-0 home win against Colorado on Tuesday, you have to think the Caps will be hitting stride about now. The Caps (2-0-1) should roll into Miami with a little more confidence and be a pick 'em against the Cats.
NHL games have had some wild momentum swings so far this season. It seems a two-goal lead means nothing and a three-goal difference is easily overcome. So keep live betting in mind.
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