Washington Capitals at New York Islanders
Pittsburgh may have temporarily regained the division lead but the Islanders are buoyant after defeating their rivals back to back and extending their winning streak to four. Overall they're a league best 9-1-0 in the last ten games and winning a lot of goodwill for being an exciting team to watch with a lot of young talent.
Washington sit nine points back looking up and know this isn't a good time to play the Isles for the first of four times this year, that's especially so when you add in the knowledge that captain Alex Ovechkin dropped out of practice yesterday so is unlikely to be 100%. Barry Trotz will surely be setting out with his team how to contain New York's speed and plenty of that job will fall to two of their main minute eating defencemen Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen, these are two guys not having great individual seasons who've also historically struggled against the Isles as two members of the Penguins.
To be fair they are better drilled now and after a really poor dip the Caps have regained their defensive composure, conceding only 10 goals in their last five. They're still on the back foot again tonight though after a bad home loss to Buffalo and as a powerplay-orientated team will struggle at even strength here I feel. Take the Islanders over the -1.5 goal handicap for the best value.
Calgary Flames at San Jose Sharks
Dubious times in San Jose as the Sharks have slipped to three straight losses, all against sides from the bottom third of the NHL, and have just two success in their previous eight. Surprise package Calgary were unable to end a long hoodoo away at Anaheim last night; they very nearly completed a comeback from 3-0 but a couple of third period goals should at least provide some momentum coming into this game.
Not that any loss to a strong team should get the Flames too down when they seem to basking in their upstart status. I'm not sure anybody had them to be four points better than San Jose over a quarter of the way through the season. In all honesty the Sharks look a little sluggish up front in comparison to recent seasons, only passing the two goal mark once during this eight game bad stretch and their success rate from conceding first is noticeably lower than the teams you'd expect them to be in direct competition with.
To me backing the long odds of Calgary outmanoeuvring their division rivals is absolutely the right call, although I'd maybe cover overtime reducing them to 2.42.
Best Bet: New York Islanders to overcome -1.5 handicap at 2.90.