Chicago Blackhawks (+125) at Tampa Bay Lightning (-135, 5.5 o/u)
Tonight, the Chicago Blackhawks land in Florida to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena (7:30 p.m. Eastern).
Chicago heads into Tampa minus leading scorer Patrick Kane, who is out for 12 weeks with a broken clavicle.
The Blackhawks were able to get past the Florida Panthers in a shootout on Tuesday minus their star winger, but the absence of Kane will undoubtedly take its toll on the team down the stretch.
“You can’t replace Kaner,” said forward Kris Versteeg, who scored his 13th goal of the season against the Panthers. “He’s a special talent, somebody who’s really irreplaceable. It’s going to have to be by committee. Guys are going to have to step up and find ways to get the job done.”
This evening, Chicago will have its hands full with a Lightning team that boasts the best home record in the East this season (22-6-1).
But, in a scheduling anomaly, Tampa has played exclusively against Western Conference teams in the month of February, going just 5-6 over that span, including a 5-4 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in their last outing.
The Lightning dominated the play, outshooting the Avalanche 32-18, but mental breakdowns led to high-quality chances the other way.
“We didn’t give them too many chances, but every chance we gave them was a pretty prime scoring chance,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said after the loss to Colorado. “It’s tough to ask your goalie to stone them on breakaways, half-breakaways and turnovers right in front of our slot. That’s what costs us.”
Chicago is currently third in the Central Division with 79 points (ten back of first-place Nashville, but five up on fourth-place Winnipeg). Tampa, meanwhile, is second in the Atlantic (80 points), but just a point up on the Red Wings, who have two games in hand.
The road Blackhawks are listed at +125 in the moneyline; Tampa Bay is -138 and the o/u is at 5.5. The home team has won three of the last four games in the series.
(Photo credit: Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)