Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens
They've been fighting for the Atlantic Division title all season and a victory for Tampa Bay tonight brings them level on points. Their three meetings to come could well decide who gets that desired first seeding. It'll be interesting to see if they meet in the playoffs as the Lightning dominated both contests from earlier in the season. In a matchup between two speedy, skillful lineups they proved more willing to press the puck in the tough areas on the boards and make the contest a bit more physical.
Three straight wins in the last week gives Tampa the edge in momentum too although they haven't faced the trickiest of opponents. Montreal were red hot before heading out on a Californian road trip, a relatively easy game against Arizona did at least allow them to get back in the win column. Both the Lightning's top two forwards lines continue to be deadly, the combination of Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov one of the standout duos in the NHL this year. It's been eight games since the team as a whole failed to score three goals or more and Montreal aren't at that same offensive level. I think the value is with Tampa Bay to bring themselves level in the standings.
Winnipeg Jets at St. Louis Blues
Another key divisional match to get stuck into. It's 12 days since they last clashed and on that occasion the Blues left Manitoba with the slightest of shootout victories. Winnipeg have the more pressing need with below them closing in and winning back to back has proved a tough ask for them lately. Key injuries to Mathieu Perrault and now also Dustin Byfuglien are adding extra strain on a roster that has defied expectations. Captain Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little are trying to lead by example and are star players who play the tough situations too.
St. Louis routed Toronto last time out to pick up their first win of the month and that was an exceptionally dominant performance. It's the first time the Blues have been at home for a couple of weeks but they've only won one of their last four at Scottrade Center. Their scoring is coming in fits and starts so I'm not quite sure what to expect from them at the moment, the Jets will need to front up at the blueline and stop them getting up a head of steam. If the two defences and goaltenders are on form a repeat of their recent close encounter seems likely. At 3.85 the tie has a very strong chance.
Best Bet: Tampa Bay Lightning to win at 2.70