After a tough shootout loss with the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday evening, we head back to the Southeast division searching for an NHL winner. We enter a busy evening 22-12 with our featured selections on the year. Tonight’s game involves the two struggling Florida teams, as the Tampa Bay Lightning head to Sunrise to take on the Panthers.
Tampa Bay Lightning (-130) @ Florida Panthers (+110)
Though the Panthers incredulously won the Southeast Division last season, they’ve failed to carry any of the momentum over in 2013. While much of that has to do with injuries, most of it can be attributed to regression. This is not a very talented team, and expect this group to struggle for the duration of the year. They currently sit in last-place in the NHL heading into tonight’s slate of games, and I’ll be surprised if they don’t finish in that spot come the end of April.
Already rumours have circulated among the Panthers team that they’ll be very active come the Trade Deadline and expect that to really wear on the players in the locker room. This is a team that is about as injury depleted as they come, missing their number one goaltender, and four of their top-six defencemen. They’ve dropped six of their past seven games, and should make it 7 of 8 after the Lightning are done with them.
Even though Tampa enters this game just one point up on Florida, the mood remains different with the Lightning. General Manager Steve Yzerman came out earlier in the week believing his team can make the play-offs and no changes are imminent. He is standing by his team and look for that loyalty to be rewarded down the stretch. The Bolts have a wealth of great, young talent and are simply too good to be near the basement of the Eastern Conference.
Tampa’s problems can mostly be attributed to shoddy goaltending, but Anders Lindback is healthy and has played well of late. Look for that trend to continue down the stretch, and expect the Lightning to move closer to the 8th spot opposed to the 15th. This is a team that features too much skill to flounder, and look for a convincing victory over their Florida rivals tonight.
PICK = Tampa Bay (-130)