Vancouver Canucks (+151) at Nashville Predators (-163, 5 o/u)
With nine games left in the regular season, the Nashville Predators (37-23-13, 87 pts) are comfortably in the driver’s seat for a Western Conference Wild Card spot. Now they have their sights set on a higher seed and can help their own cause tomorrow when the struggling Vancouver Canucks (27-33-12, 66 pts) come to Bridgestone Arena (8:00 PM Eastern).
Since the end of February, things have picked up for the Predators. They’ve won ten of their last 14 games, including a 5-2 victory over Los Angeles the last time they hit the ice on Monday. Goalie Pekka Rinne made 28 saves on the night and recorded his 30th win of the season.
“We’ve got a lot of young bodies in this room and when they go home tonight, they’re going to look at the standings and the results and say, ‘Wow, we beat one of the best teams in this league that’s talked about as a Stanley Cup contender,'” center Ryan Johansen said to the Associated Press.
The Predators are improving just at the right time, averaging 3.3 goals per game in their last 14 outings (a big step up from their 2.7 GPG season average). With the division rival Blackhawks faltering, Nashville has moved within four points of third in the Central. If the playoffs started today, Nashville would get Los Angeles in the first round. If they can catch Chicago, it would set up a more favorable matchup with St. Louis.
Vancouver beat Nashville just three weeks ago, but the team is effectively out of postseason contention. The Canucks are 15 points behind the Wild, who own the second Wild Card spot in the West, and have just ten games remaining.
Management has seen the writing on the wall and shut-down many of the team’s key players for the season, including defenseman Alex Edler and forwards Radim Vrbata and Brandon Sutter. The trio all missed time due to injuries earlier in the season and, with the playoffs out of reach, will get an early start to their offseason healing.
The shorthanded Canucks have been absolutely anemic on offense of late. Not only has the team lost five straight games in regulation, but it’s been shutout in the last three.
“The only thing I worry about is effort,” said leading scorer Daniel Sedin (58 points) to the National Post. “And I think from some guys right now, the effort is not there. It’s not good enough. I think those guys know who they are. I think it’s embarrassing if you’re not giving the effort every night.”
The Predators are looking to enter the postseason hot while the Canucks just want this nightmare of a season to be over.
Pick: Nashville (-163).
(Photo credit: Elliot [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0).] via Wikimedia Commons.)