NHL Picks and Predictions for January 19th

Just three games on the docket tonight, but we will try and make the most of the light slate.

Last night was a busy night around the league, a night that witnessed a very scary incident in Buffalo. Montreal forward Max Pacioretty traveled home with the Canadians on Tuesday night following a brief hospital stay after he was struck by a teammate’s shot. Pacioretty sustained what the team called an upper body injury that led him to be wheeled by stretcher into an ambulance during the first intermission. Conscious, Pacioretty was hooked to an IV and heavily wrapped in blankets as he was transported to a hospital for precautionary reasons. The Canadians lost that tilt 2-1 in overtime to the Sabres.

We also witnessed the Flyers avenging a third period disaster and beating the Capitals 3-2 in overtime. The Flyers won only hours after they gave general manager Paul Holmgren a three-year contract extension. Holmgren has made one shrewd move after another the last five years to help put the Flyers atop the Eastern Conference.

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Today’s NHL Betting Picks

Toronto Maple Leafs @ New York Rangers (Total: 5.5)

The Maple Leafs (18-21-5) scored 21 goals in four consecutive wins from Jan. 6-11, including a nine-goal output against Atlanta. That outburst ended abruptly, however, as Toronto has since been outscored 6-2 in back-to-back losses. The Leafs’ 114 goals are among the fewest in the league, and four of their last five defeats have come by one goal. Toronto, which fell 2-1 in a shootout to Calgary on Saturday, plays its next five games against opponents currently in playoff position. Coach Ron Wilson has hinted that J.S. Giguere might return form injury at the Garden on Wednesday night. The Leafs must know for certain that Giguere, 33, has recovered from the nagging injury and can play the majority of games. Then they will decided to offer the unrestricted free agent a new contract or trade him at the Feb. 28 NHL deadline. If his career won’t be in Toronto, Giguere still needs to play well to attract other clubs’ offers in the summer. His 32 saves against Calgary were a good start.

The New York Rangers are on a two game losing steak of their own and are need of a good wake up call. They may be the leagues most inconsistent team at home as they own a 11-10-2 record. New York (26-18-3) is 1-3-0 in its last four and has managed two or fewer goals in eight of the previous nine. All but one game in that span has been decided by one goal. The Rangers lost 3-2 to Philadelphia on Sunday and coach John Tortorella benched forward Marian Gaborik for most of the second period, when he played just 2:25. Gaborik had 42 goals last season but has 11 in 2010-11 and hasn’t scored in eight straight. The Rangers are slumping offensively again with just 13 goals in their last nine games, including successive road losses by the same score on back-to-back nights in Montreal and Philadelphia. In both games, the Rangers fell behind early before a third-period comeback fell short. They also have scored just twice in their last 32 opportunities on the power play, including 0-for-3 on Sunday.

The last time the Leafs beat the Rangers was in New York in October and I don’t see any reason why they cannot get it done again. Toronto is 4-2 SU in its last 6 games and is 5-1 SU in its last 6 games on the road. Toronto gives up the fewest power plays in the league allowing 3.1 per game, which does not pose well for the Rangers as the power play is where the Rangers have excelled all year.

Take a look at the Maple Leafs getting it done in Madison Square come Wednesday night.

Pick: Toronto Maple Leafs +150 (Moneyline)

Columbus Blue Jackets @ Florida Panthers (Total: 5.5)

We cashed in on the Blue Jackets falling victim to the Lightning last night, we will now consider the merit of this club playing on back to back evenings.

The Jackets won’t travel much for their next road game as they head three hours south to face the Panthers in Sunrise. The Panthers, who are currently in last place in the Southeast, went from bad to worse last Saturday when captain Bryan McCabe went down with a broken jaw. Without McCabe, the Panthers are very young and inexperienced on defense (sound familiar). This is a very winnable game for the Jackets if they are aggressive and are able to score on the power play. One of the few high points for the Panthers is their third ranked penalty kill.The Jackets finish their road trip on Saturday in St. Louis when they face a Blues team that blew out Columbus the last time the two teams met.The Jackets could bring a lot of momentum if they are able to get victories in one or both of their games in Florida. That momentum, combined with the horrifying memory that was the last match-up between these two teams, could lead the Blue Jackets closer to that coveted eighth playoff spot and back into the mix at the perfect time.

It’s a situation that has become familiar in Florida the last few seasons, mostly because the Panthers have developed a habit of trying to overcome slow starts with desperate, though ultimately futile, second-half runs. This season has started to fit that pattern with the Panthers getting rewarded for the work ethic they have displayed much of the season by winning on a more regular basis in the last month and at least setting up a possible path to a playoff spot. But if the Panthers showed some signs of promise just a few days ago, they may have been dealt a mortal wound by losing 3-2 in a shootout to the Atlanta Thrashers on Monday. Florida has 13 players set to become free agents after the season — more than half of them unrestricted — and for some playoff bound teams, a few like goaltender Tomas Vokoun and veteran forward Cory Stillman may have great appeal as rentals if the Panthers decide they don’t want them back. But in the meantime, the Panthers have shown just enough life to keep their faint playoff hopes alive in a generally non-descript Eastern Conference, and for Tallon to debate whether to bite the bullet or go all in for this season.

The last time these clubs hooked up was on December 9th, 2009, the Blue Jackets shut out the Panthers 3-0. Skip forward two calendar years and we have two virtually identical teams as the 2009 rosters. Both clubs are extremely inconsistent and are perennial dogs that scratch and sniff at the 8th playoff spot at seasons end. For all of the inconsistencies both clubs posses, they do have a plethora of young talented forwards. I expect the Jackets’ to be quite tired from their shoot-out loss to the Lightning last night and I expect there will be a lot of ice to work with. The Panthers will be looking to avenge their Monday loss to the Thrashers and I expect them to come out firing. One positive for the Jackets chances of scoring tonight, Florida leads the league in power play goals allowed with 0.5 per game.

We will consider the OVER in Sunrise on Wednesday night.

Pick: OVER 5.5 Goals (+110)

Minnesota Wild @ Calgary Flames (Total: 5)

The Wild were able to walk in to Edmonton last night and exit with a 4-1 victory. They scored two goals in the first 4 minutes of the game and never looked back. The Wild may be without tough-guy Brad Staubitz Wednesday night in Calgary because the forward was called for instigating a fight in the last five minutes of the Wild’s 4-1 win at Edmonton on Tuesday. That’s a no-no in the NHL. The NHL office will most certainly review it, and if upheld, Staubitz will be suspended one game and coach Todd Richards will be fined $10,000. Staubitz was called for instigating a fight with Jean-Francois Jacques in a game that got out of hand during the Wild’s rout. Anton Khudobin’s second consecutive shutout was ruined with 3:46 left, but the rookie goalie made 31 saves and Matt Cullen, Brent Burns and Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored a goal and assist each in the Wild’s second consecutive win. Andrew Brunette also scored his 250th career goal and Eric Nystrom had two assists. Still, it was a game the Wild didn’t play well in. It gave Edmonton seven power plays, including six straight at one point, to almost derail the game. Luckily for Minnesota, Cullen and Burns gave the Wild a 2-0 lead by 3:25 in.

The Calgary Flames ruined a heroic comeback in Montreal last time out, they avenged a 4 goal deficit but lost in overtime to the Habs. Six points out of a possible eight during a four-game road trip. Just what the doctor ordered when it comes to the Calgary Flames. For a team desperate for points to climb the Western Conference standings, it’s the kind of trip that can turn a season around — provided they keep playing the way they did for most of the journey out east. It wasn’t always pretty, with not enough offense some nights, and not enough defense on others, but the team battled and made statements on the opening game in Carolina and the closer in Montreal as they came back from big deficits to earn single points in shootout and overtime losses. Now they know they need to keep it up with four of their next five games coming at the Saddledome.

Look for the momentum built on their eastern road trip to return with them to the Saddledome and expect the Calgary Flames to bring it to the Wild. Minnesota is 5-16-1 SU in its last 22 games ,when playing on the road against Calgary and will be playing on back to back night come tonight. Calgary is 15-5 SU in its last 20 games when playing at home against Minnesota.

We will consider the Calgary Flames creeping up even farther in the Western conference ranks with a victory on Wednesday night.

Pick: Calgary Flames -145 (Moneyline)

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