Ottawa - Winnipeg
Both Ottawa and Winnipeg ended 2013 in strong fashion and will be looking to extend their winning streaks, having boosted their play-off hopes.
Ousting a pair of division rivals as well as shutting out Buffalo has made it even sweeter for Winnipeg, though of the two clubs they face a steeper challenge to make it to the post-season party.
Ottawa have won their last three home games, all over strong Eastern teams, with goalie Craig Anderson in top form. Coach Paul MacLean has to be optimistic that his side can qualify if they play to their undoubted potential.
A day after the USA announced their roster for the Sochi Olympics the Senators' Bobby Ryan was considered the most hard done by and will undoubtedly come out fast to add his 18 goals for the season. Winnipeg's Blake Wheeler was one of those selected and few in the league bettered his ten tallies through December.
A win for Ottawa could prove that they are the real deal. Take them to start the calendar year on the right foot at 2.10.
Minnesota - Buffalo
Six consecutive losses constitutes a nightmare run for Minnesota and the Wild simply must turn it around versus bottom of the league Buffalo.
Even though they have improved of late, a clash of the NHL's two lowest scoring teams is unlikely to draw in the neutrals. The Sabres might be in the midst of their best run of the season with four wins from the last seven but on the road they haven't prevailed since November 5th. In those ten games they've scored a paltry 12 goals so they're probably slightly fortunate to have even managed a couple of points from OT losses.
In Minnesota's defence, only the last two defeats came at Xcel Energy Center, so their home record still stands up as one of the best in the league. On familiar ice they average less than two goals against, so should be able to shut the Sabres down.
Buffalo might have improved, though their success revolves around goalie Ryan Miller keeping them involved and they can't be trusted to cause a shock. Take Minnesota to break out of their slump and overcome the handicap.
Minnesota Wild to beat -1.5 goal handicap at 2.50
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