After a couple of key days off with less than stellar games on the NHL card, we return with a big winner for your Friday long weekend. We were victorious just under a week ago with the Minnesota Wild in Dallas, and we’ll try to do that again tonight. Our featured picks enter the evening 30-16 in 2013.
Minnesota Wild (-105) @ Dallas Stars (-115)
Like it was a week ago, this is a tale of two squads headed in polar opposite directions. The Wild are gearing up for a post-season push, and are squarely focused on removing the Vancouver Canucks from their Northwest Division perch. Meanwhile, the Stars have been floundering of late, and if their recent trades are any indication, they seem like a team with different motives entering the final stretch of games this season.
Dallas was routed 7-4 in their last outing against the Wild on Monday, and have been abysmal in the month of March. Add in the fact that they recently dealt their captain for futures, and doesn’t seem like this team will be making a play-off push. Brenden Morrow was an integral part of the Dallas community and Stars organization, and losing a heart-and-soul player like Morrow will take time to recover from. The young Stars seemed to struggle in their first game devoid of Morrow, and look for that to be a theme in their remaining outings. The Wild play stifling defense, and it doesn’t allow many chances for the opposition. For a Stars squad that has trouble generating serious attacks, this could prove problematic.
Conversely, after a so-so beginning to 2013, the Minnesota Wild are simply rolling and seem poised for a return to the post-season. Their huge off-season acquisitions of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter have paid off thus far, and they’ve been showing signs recently that their group can cause major damage against any team in a playoff series. They enter Friday night winners of their last seven, and after defeating the Stars on Monday, have the confidence to so again tonight. Minnesota enters this contest one of the most confident groups in the league, and they’re now winners of 14 of their last 18 games. They’re a healthy team and their offensive talent, and stifling defensive play, will cause fits for a Stars team that seems content on calling it a season an entire month early.
Minnesota possesses great balance in their lines, and ultimately expect their depth to wear down a Dallas group that lacks that quality. Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle, and Mikko Koivu overran a weak Dallas team on Monday night, and that trio should do so again. The Wild have allowed an average of under two goals in their past ten contests. Dallas won’t score, and when they do get chances, the red-hot Niklas Backstrom will certainly shut the door. The wrong team is favoured in this one, and as a result, play the Wild as road underdogs. Dallas tends to struggle on home ice, and look for the Wild to keep their winning streak alive in Big D.
PICK = Minnesota (-105)
Though it’s a small Friday evening slate of games in the NHL tonight, there is one match-up that stands out featuring huge implications for the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Bonus Pick #1: New Jersey (+100) Though the Devils are without their top scorer in Ilya Kovalchuk, they’re still a solid group that should be able to obtain two points against the Lightning. Tampa is struggling mightily this year, and though they have a new coach in Jon Cooper, it won’t change much in the short-term. Vincent Lecavalier, Benoit Pouliot, and Ryan Malone all remain injured for their team, and the playoffs seem like nothing more than a pipe dream. Conversely, New Jersey is fighting for their playoff lives and every game matters. Look for that mindset to win out on Friday and propel to New Jersey to victory. Consider the Devils as road underdogs.