Dallas Stars @ Tampa Bay Lightning – Amalie Arena at 23:00
Another hockey Handicap Betting preview as I focus on the inter-conference duel between Dallas and Tampa Bay. Both sides have fell short of expectations this year although the Lightning are just one position below the final wildcard spot in the east.
Nothing to play for in Dallas
The season may not officially be over, but there is little to play for in Dallas. Optimism was high in Texas following a strong regular season this time last year. Nevertheless, things have not fell into place for the Stars as they have struggled for consistency for the majority of this season. Many will point fingers at the goaltending tandem of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi. Both players struggled during the playoffs last year as head coach Lindy Ruff alternated between them throughout the post season. Ironically, Lehtonen recorded a shutout in Dallas’ win over Carolina last night which reinforces the claim that the Finn plays good when there is no pressure surrounding him.
Tyler Seguin is the leading point scorer in the Big D with 70 from 78 games. He is also the joint-leading goal scorer alongside Jamie Benn with 25. Despite the fact that both players have had strong campaigns their point productions have decreased from last year.
Urgency needed for the Bolts
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s four game winning streak was snapped by Montreal yesterday, howbeit they did pick up what could be a valuable point. They are four points adrift of Boston who occupy the second wildcard position. They do however have a game in hand over their divisional rivals. It has been a rather disappointing campaign for Tampa Bay, many were predicting them to be in the hunt for the Presidents’ Trophy and even the Stanley Cup after near misses in recent years. The long term absence of captain Steven Stamkos hasn’t helped their course. The centre is one of the best snipers in the game and tallied 60 goals in the 2011-12.
On the other hand there is another superstar in Central Florida in the shape of Nikita Kucherov. The right wing leads the Bolts in goals (38) and points (80). He is definitely proving to be value for money with an annual cap hit of $4.7 million! Defenceman Victor Hedman leads the franchise with 52 assists from the blue line. The 2009 #2 overall pick is having his most productive campaign to date as he is certifying his status as one of the more complete defenders in the game.
Dallas won the only meeting between these two sides in February. Additionally they have won their last three games against the Lightning. Despite them having the upper hand on their opponents, I expect to see Tampa picking up the two points tonight. They need to show their urgency tonight if they still have hopes of making the post season.
Handicap Betting Recommendation: Tampa Bay Lightning -0.5 at 1.87 (excluding OT)
Prices correct at time of writing
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