Pittsburgh at Ottawa Odds, Free Pick & TV Info

Posted by Michael Hunt on Wednesday,March 22, 2017 9:26, EST in

One of the most important games in the NHL on Thursday night is when defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh visits Ottawa. Both the Penguins and Senators are going to be in the playoffs, but they are trying to win a division title and earn home-ice advantage for the first two rounds of the postseason. The Pens should be slight NHL odds favorites here.

Pittsburgh at Ottawa Odds, Free Pick & TV Info

When: Thursday, March 23, 7:30 PM ET
Where: Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa
TV: ROOT; NHL Center Ice
Stream: NHL.com/tv
Radio: Pittsburgh / Ottawa
Opening NHL Lines: Penguins favored TBA

Why bet on the Penguins?

Entering Tuesday, Pittsburgh’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot for the 11th straight season was 2. The Pens were also 1 point from reaching 100 for the 11th time in franchise history. Captain Sidney Crosby, who leads the NHL in goals with 40, was named the NHL’s 2nd Star of the Week for last week after posting 6 goals and 8 points. The Crosby, Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel trio has posted 25 points (10G-15A) in the last 5 games.

Coach Mike Sullivan first put Guentzel, Crosby and Sheary together on March 5 against Buffalo. They officially became a line on March 10 in Edmonton. They’ve got speed, but not so much size as Sheary is 5-foot- 8 while Guentzel and Crosby measure 5-foot- 11.

“We knew we were going to break through, we just had to keep doing what we were doing,” Sheary said. “I think we were getting close to 20 shots a game a couple times and we were only coming away with one or two goals, so I think it was a good effort from us.”

Pittsburgh is missing the following players due to injury: Trevor Daley (knee), Carl Hagelin (lower-body), Ron Hainsey (upper-body), Kris Letang (upper-body), Olli Maatta (hand), Evgeni Malkin (upper-body) and Bryan Rust (upper-body).

Letang, the team’s top defenseman, has been skating and making some progress, according to Sullivan.

“They’re going through the process they’ve been going through to rehab,” said Sullivan referring to injured defenders Letang and Maatta. Letang hasn’t played since Feb. 21 because of an upper-body injury. Malkin, who has 72 points in 62 games, has been dealing with his injury for some time. He is inching closer to a return but not likely this week.

Why bet on the Senators?

The struggling Senators took a four-game losing streak into Boston on Tuesday. The Senators had a chance to take over first place in the division with a strong showing over the weekend. However, losing both games dropped them four points back of Montreal in the Atlantic.

Erik Karlsson is one of seven defensemen in NHL history with five or more seasons of 65+ points by age 26 and only the third to do it outside the 1980s. Winger Mike Hoffman has registered two goals and 10 assists in his last 12 appearances. He has picked up a helper in each of the past three games, but the Senators would like to see him shoot more often. Hoffman has 21 goals and 51 points in 64 games this season.

Winger Mark Stone, one of the team’s top scorers, may not be week-to- week anymore. Coach Guy Boucher said Stone has taken a “major” step in his recovery from a lower-body injury. He skated on Tuesday morning but likely won’t play vs. Pittsburgh.

“He’s skating and he’s getting better every day. Losing your top forward for big games like that, of course that has a huge effect for us but I think we’ve got enough guys here that can pull the load. We’ve proved it all year because we’ve never had our team once on the ice and we are where we are right now. So it’s up to the guys that are here to compensate for Stone’s absent. Stone’s good for at least one point a game so somebody else has to come up with one more point,” Boucher said.

Craig Anderson (21-9- 2) started his third game in a row Tuesday after returning from an injury on Saturday against Montreal. Anderson picked up a pair of losses over the weekend during the team’s home-and- home series vs. the Canadiens and was trying to avoid dropping his third game in a row for the first time all season.

This is the final meeting of the season between Pittsburgh and Ottawa. They have split, with the Senators taking the most recent at home 4-1 on Jan. 12. Hoffman scored the winner, and Mike Condon made 29 saves.

Pittsburgh at Ottawa Free Pick: Pittsburgh Penguins

Both teams missing key players so go under the projected total of 5.5. Take Pittsburgh as a slight favorite.