Anaheim Ducks(24-17-9) vs Boston Bruins(29-10-8)
The Bruins have the chance to be the third team to reach the 30th win mark tonight, but without Brad Marchand that will be tough. Marchand is serving a 5-game suspension for his elbow before the All-Star break. The Bruins will be without Charlie McAvoy as well as he deals with some heart problems, hopefully, nothing serious. The Bruins cannot afford to go on a skid now, they have been one of the best teams in the NHL recording a point in the last 18 games straight. They hold one of the best home records in the league and go up against a team that has struggled on the road. But the thing about tonight is that the All-Star break just happened, guys are well-rested, teams are healthy and it’s a new slate of games. From here out though it is a sprint. The Bruins can be guaranteed a playoff berth now as the Ducks struggle to gain much traction in that battle for a wild card spot as they are tied with three teams right now. The Ducks line up healthy is up there for the best in the league but, some key injuries, inconsistent play has left this team on the brink of missing the playoffs. Tonight I am going Bruins, stay with the hot hand.
San Jose Sharks(26-15-7) vs Pittsburgh Penguins(27-21-3)
The Penguins have propelled themselves into the number three spot in the Metropolitan division and begin their journey back to the playoffs for another hopeful Stanley Cup run. Matt Murray should be returning tonight after taking off some time due to personal reasons and the Penguins offense hopes to surge this team into the playoffs once again. A lack of defensive depth has hurt this team all year, as the trade deadline approaches we would not be surprised to see these guys grab a top four/six defenseman. The Sharks are coming into this game in a similar situation as the Penguins a top three division spot and looking to make that push for a playoff run. Without Joe Thorthon for an extended period of time, the Sharks will feel his loss until he comes back, a veteran player that has been the mold to this team for a while now. Martin Jones is a game-time decision right now as he was listed on the IR right before the All-Star break but coach Peter DeBoer has confirmed he should be good to go after the break. These two have faced off in big-time situations(Stanley Cup 2015-16) and one time prior to this meeting this season, in which the Sharks took it 2-1, just ten days ago. Back in Pittsburgh for home ice, I am going Penguins.
Minnesota Wild(26-18-5) vs Columbus Blue Jackets(27-19-3)
I believe we will see a healthy Blue Jackets line up(minus Dubinsky) but other than that Cam Atkinson should be back, Werenski is, Wenneberg is and now the new veteran depth guy they added to the lineup Nathan Gerbe will be making his debut tonight. The Blue Jackets have a ton of forwarding depth and have a team that is surely capable of a deep playoff run, a Vezina goaltender and very young d-core, this team should take it to the Wild tonight. The Blue Jackets are especially good at home, being they have the 5th line behind them(the crowd). The Wild are very similar to the Blue Jackets, solid forward depth, great d-core and one of the top goaltenders, up and down the line up these guys match up very well. For the Wild, we will see Joel-Erikkson Ek back in the lineup, see if the rookie can crack the lineup for the rest of the season now. These two faced off one time prior to this meeting, in the very beginning of the season(Oct. 14), so that game cannot be a benchmark for this game. Wild looking to make a playoff push, Blue Jackets looking to secure a top three divisional finish, this will be a fun one. Going Blue Jackets on home ice tonight.
Chicago Blackhawks(23-19-7) vs Nashville Predators(29-11-7)
The Blackhawks have some major questions to answer for the remainder of the season. It seems Corey Crawford could come back before the year ends, but still, his future is bleak and so is the Blackhawks. A team that has struggled to win games, stay consistent and has zero defensive depth. Going up against one of the leagues best, a team with a ton of defensive depth, solid forwards and looking to make a serious run at the Cup once again. These two have met now three times this year and this will be the final meeting of four. The series favors Nashville 2-1, taking one on the road, one at home and now return to Nashville to close it out for the year. Nashville is easily the favorite choice here, but that does not mean the game will not be a great one. The Blackhawks are still a very competitive team that possesses a ton of forwarding skill, just at times struggle to stay consistent. I still have to go with the Nashville tonight, more depth, better goalie and at home.
Tampa Bay Lightning(34-12-3) vs Winnipeg Jets(29-13-8)
A battle of the best right now. The Lightning sit at #1 in the league as the Jets sit in the #4 spot, two teams that could very well meet later down the road if you know what I am hinting at. The Lightning face an opponent with very similar forward depth and defensive depth but without Jacob Trouba the Jets will struggle to solidify a top-four now. Connor Hellebyuck and Andrei Vasilevskiy two of the top goaltenders in the league going at it. This will for sure be a close game, no blow out in store here, we can expect a close, 2-1, 3-2 game. These two have met once before on Dec. 9, the Lighting won 4-3 in overtime and I think we can expect a similar result. Two teams with the top power play in the league, it will for sure come down to a special teams battle tonight. For this game, I want to take the Jets but they are bit banged up and going up against the leagues best without a healthy roster is not easy. Going Lightning.
Other games on tonight…
Devils vs Sabres: Sabres
Panthers vs Islanders: Islanders
Senators vs Hurricanes: Senators
Canadiens vs Blues: Blues
Kings vs Stars: Stars
Golden Knights vs Flames: Golden Knights
Avalanche vs Canucks: Avalanche