Most of the sports world will have their eyes glued to the NFL Championship games today, but that dosent mean the rest of the sports world will be shutting down. There is still hockey to be played and the NHL has 5 tilts on tap today.
In one of the feeblest moves of this NHL season, the New York Islanders ruined the aspirations for Evgeni Nabakov to return to the NHL with a competing club. Evgeni Nabakov left Russia hoping to land back in the NHL with a competitive team. The contending Detroit Red Wings gave Nabokov that chance, signing him to a one-year contract, but those plans were upset when the struggling New York Islanders swooped in to claim him off waivers Saturday. Nabokov, though, doesn’t plan to show up. It just goes to show why there are some respected franchises in the league and there are some that ruin it for the rest.
May we see Peter Forsberg return to the league again? Forsberg measured his fitness level in a nearly 45-minute on-ice workout Saturday morning before the Colorado Avalanche hosted the Boston Bruins. He went through numerous shooting drills with Ryan O’Reilly, trying to keep pace with the spry scorer who turns 20 next month and is out with a shoulder injury. There were no promises made or any contractual talk, but the feeling is that the one time NHL Superstar will give it one more go.
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Florida Panthers @ New Jersey Devils (Total: 5)
The Panthers may have lost three straight games to end their six-game homestand, but with nine of an available 12 points, the thought is they are doing the best they can with what they’ve got. Florida has an obvious problem on offense. Cory Stillman’s goal Friday against the Lightning came 50 seconds into the game. That was it for the Panthers. In the past 12 games, fans have pointed out that the Panthers struggle to win late games as the team has blown numerous two-goal leads. But the real problem is Florida just isn’t scoring enough. Since Dec. 31, Florida has been held to two goals or less in six of its 12 games.
The Devils took care of some streak work in Philadelphia Saturday and now host the Florida Panthers looking for a four-game winning streak. The last time the Devils were in Philadelphia, two weeks ago, Johan Hedberg gave up two goals on 12 shots and was done. Saturday was different. A whole lot different. Hedberg turned aside 26 shots and led New Jersey to the win. Patrik Elias scored the other goals for the Devils, the second into an empty net, with the Devils actually on the power play late. The win over the Flyers gave New Jersey its third straight win, for the first three-game winning streak since December 12-21, 2009. It also ended an eight-game losing streak for the club in Philadelphia, six games in the regular season and two in the playoffs. In all, the Devils hadn’t won in Philly since Dec. 4, 2008.
The Devils, playing with more confidence and purpose, are 5-0-1 in their last six games, outscoring the six foes, 23-11. These teams hooked up just 8 days ago in a 3-2 win for the Panthers in Florida, a game that saw 62 total shots peppered on goal. Florida has sat idle since their Friday night loss to the Lightning and I believe they will be ready to test the stubborn Devils defensive scheme. The Devils will be playing on back to back afternoons come Sunday and I expect to see some sluggishness in their game.
We will consider the OVER at the Prudential Centre on Sunday afternoon.
Nashville Predators @ Edmonton Oilers (Total: 5.5)
The Predators jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period and added three more in the third Thursday night at Colorado. Goaltender Pekka Rinne stopped 32 of 33 shots. The Predators were outshot 33-28. Five different Predators scored: left wing Sergei Kostitsyn, defenseman Cody Franson, right wing Matt Halischuk, center David Legwand and left wing Colin Wilson. The Predators won with five goals for the sixth time this season. They won by three goals or more for the 13th time. The Predators are 2-1 on their six-game road trip and 6-2-0 in their last eight road games. The only loss was to Chicago last Sunday with Anders Lindback in goal. The trip continues in Edmonton this Sunday. When the trip ends, the Predators will have flown more than 12,000 miles since Jan. 1.
Edmonton played well for 50 minutes, outshooting Dallas and controlling the balance of play for much of the game, but a 10-minute lapse in the second period, in which they gave up two goals, sunk their ship. An empty-netter at 19:59 sealed their fate, they lost 4-2. Shawn Horcoff is back from his knee injury, but he’s too little and too late for a team that was hoping to stay relevant in the NHL playoff chases. Before the captain went down on Dec. 7, the Oilers were 10-12-5 and still had an outside chance to play meaningful games in March and April. The club went 4-14-3 in his absence, and it now has no hope.
The possibility for goals on Sunday night in Edmonton is great. The Predators’ Rinne has a 3.37 career GAA in eight games against Edmonton is his second-worst against a West opponent. His worst is 3.64 versus Calgary. Rinne was pulled from the first two matchups with the Oilers last season, then won the last two despite giving up six goals. The Predators helped him out by outscoring the Oilers 15-9 while winning last season’s final three meetings, including two in Edmonton. Nashville has won 14 of 16 over the Oilers, averaging 4.0 goals, and seven of eight at Rexall Place. While Edmonton enters having allowed 16 goals during a four-game losing streak, the Predators have scored five in each of their past two. Nashville will try to keep rolling against the Oilers, who are allowing a league-worst 3.33 goals per game. The total has gone OVER in 5 of Edmonton’s last 5 games when playing Nashville and has gone OVER in 4 of Edmonton’s last 5 games when playing at home against the Predators.
We will consider the OVER in the city of champions on Sunday night.