You may wanna get on board with Notch this week - he's been on fire all season long. Here's his take on Saturday's games...
Chicago at Philadelphia 1:00 PM EST
As good as Chicago has been on the road, Philly has a similar record at home. The Blackhawks play well (10-4-1) versus Eastern Conference teams this season; the Flyers are weak against the West (5-7-1) in 2009-10. Chicago is hot coming into this game winning 7 of their last 9, but that is no surprise for one of the best teams in the league. I wonder if Toews, Kane and the boys will save something this Saturday afternoon for their big Sunday matinee matchup against the league leading Capitals back in Chicago? For Philly, their goaltending is once again in question with Emery done for the season and Leighton sporting a 3.41 goals-against average in his last five games, getting chased from the net twice. The last time these 2 teams faced each other was in December of 2008 in Chicago with the Blackhawks routing the Flyers 5-1. This is a tough game to call as I can see it going both ways for a variety of reasons. I can’t bet against Chicago, they never seem to stop with the offensive pressure and that will be too much for Philly to handle.
Chicago – Visitor Win – V (ProLine)
Florida at San Jose 4:00 PM EST
The Panthers haven’t played the Sharks since a 4-3 road win on Oct. 24, 2008, snapping their six-game losing streak in the series. The Sharks, hosting the Panthers for the first time since a 6-2 victory Dec. 8, 2005, have outscored Florida 18-3 in winning the last four games in San Jose. Florida is having problems away from home this season and more recently going 3-9-1 on the road since Dec. 23. San Jose is the 2nd best team in the league at home. Although the Panthers haven't had much success lately against the Sharks, Vokoun is 8-0-1 with a 2.18 goals-against average and one shutout in his last nine starts against them. Most of that success came when Vokoun played for Nashville, but he was in net for Florida in its last game versus the Sharks, stopping 47 of 50 shots. After this contest, the Sharks play 10 of their next 13 on the road. On Thursday night, the Sharks needed a franchise record 6 third period goals to come back and beat the Predators. They were thoroughly outplayed for the first 2 periods, but put it all together in the third. I suspect a full 60 minute effort in this game and that will be enough to beat the Panthers. Versus the West, Florida is 6-7-2 this season. The Sharks are 12-4-1 against the East.
San Jose by 2 or more – Home plus Win – H+ (ProLine)
Edmonton at Toronto 7:00 PM EST
What an exciting game this will be, so happy this monstrosity will be featured on National television! Facing the NHL-worst Oilers (21-39-7) could help the Maple Leafs continue their recent winning ways. The Oilers are coached by Quinn, who will be making his first appearance in Toronto since being fired after the 2005-06 season. Have a look at these numbers for Edmonton goalies:
- Deslauriers is 1-10-0 with a 3.46 GAA in his last 11 road starts, made 27 saves in a 3-1 home win over Toronto on Dec. 30
- Dubnyk made 22 saves Thursday in falling to 0-7-2 with a 4.20 goals-against average in 11 appearances this season.
Not good. Then we have this little gem; Edmonton is 1-13-1 on the road since winning five straight Dec. 3-11. The only good thing the Oilers have going for them is this game is that they won 4-1 in its last visit to Air Canada Centre on March 7, 2009. At the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Maple Leafs haven't had much to be excited about. Some new young faces, though, have helped change the mood over the last couple of weeks. Toronto looks to win 3 straight for the first time this season.
Toronto – Home Win – H (ProLine)
Boston at Montreal 7:00 PM EST
Montreal looks for a fifth win in six meetings with its Original Six rival when this season series concludes Saturday night at Bell Centre. Montreal has won twice in regulation and twice in a shootout. The Bruins picked up their lone win in the season series, 3-0, on Feb. 7 in Montreal. The Bruins are ornery after Marc Savard was hit last Sunday, and coupled with the injury to the star player; Chiarelli felt the need to address the team before Thursday's game in Philadelphia. Whatever he said must have struck a chord because Boston popped five pucks past Flyers goalie Michael Leighton for a 5-1 win. The Canadiens have won four straight and five of six to give themselves some breathing room in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They are averaging a Washington-esque 3.67 goals per game over that span. If Price gets the start for the Habs, that should be a good thing as Price is 3-0 and has allowed only three goals against the Bruins this season. In those 3 games, he has a .971 save percentage (102 of 105) and 0.97 goals-against average.
Montreal – Home Win – H (ProLine)
New Jersey at NY Islanders 7:00 PM EST
New Jersey in a shootout – Tie – T (ProLine)
Phoenix at Carolina 7:00 PM EST
Phoenix finally goes on the road for some team bonding and gladly welcomes this upcoming four-game road trip. Raleigh might not be the best place to start it though. Playing its first road game in a month, the Coyotes look for their fourth straight victory Saturday when it faces a Hurricanes team trying for a ninth consecutive home win. With a 1.30 goals-against average while starting each game during the Coyotes' winning streak, Ilya Bryzgalov will likely be in net Saturday to try to extend his franchise-record win total to 36. Bryzgalov, though, is 0-3-0 with a 5.06 GAA in three career starts against Carolina. He allowed four goals on 28 shots and was replaced after two periods in the Coyotes' last matchup with the Hurricanes, a 7-2 loss in Phoenix on Feb. 7, 2009. Carolina, 9-1-1 in its last 11 overall, is riding its longest home winning streak since a franchise-best 12-game run from Feb. 20-April 7, 2009. In the teams' last matchup at RBC Center, Carolina won 5-2 on Nov. 21, 2008. This game makes me happy that I have NHL Center Ice as I will probably tune in to watch a good portion of this game. Phoenix is way under their season average against the East as they are only 7-6-1 against the weaker conference. Carolina is 2nd worst in the league against the West going 5-11-1.
Phoenix – Visitor Win – V (ProLine)
Buffalo at Detroit 7:00 PM EST
Buffalo will be playing their 3rd game in 4 nights and this will also be the 2nd game of back to backs after losing last night to Minnesota. Miller will be in the pipes for Buffalo no doubt as Lalime took the loss on Friday night. Before the loss last night, the Sabres sort of turned things around by winning 3 in a row after losing 8 of 9 previously. Buffalo has already laid a whoppin’ on the Wings this season winning 6-2 in Buffalo at the start of the year. Osgood looked horrible in that game, so I expect Howard continue to get the nod in this one as he has been recently anyway. Buffalo has been the best Eastern Conference team this season when playing teams from the West; their record is 10-4-1. Detroit is as healthy as they have ever been and that is a good thing as they are in danger of missing the post season for the first time in the last 18 seasons.
Detroit in OT – Home Win – H (ProLine)
Ottawa at Vancouver 10:00 PM EST
Ottawa won the earlier matchup this season 3-1 and that victory was part of a franchise record 11-game winning streak. The Sens were playing their best hockey at that point and also got the benefit of playing against Andrew Raycroft who started in goal for the Canucks. There is no way they get that luck again as this will be Vancouver’s first home game since Luongo won a gold medal for Canada at the Olympics. I am sure you heard about that. Not only that but, Ottawa is back to playing inconsistent hockey and have had trouble finding the back of the net recently and have only scored 7 goals in their last 5 games. That stat includes a 4 goal game against the league worst Edmonton Oilers. Vancouver is dynamite at home this season (23-7-1) and will get a lot of love from their fans in this game. I don’t see the “Honey-do-list” being a factor in this game as the Canucks have been home for 3 days resting in-between errands. A Luongo versus Leclaire matchup is never good either.
Vancouver by 2 or more – Home plus Win – H+ (ProLine)
GOOD LUCK TO ALL!