Free Picks: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers

Lightning vs Panthers NHL
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers, NHL, Amalie Arena

Tampa got whacked 7-2 on Tuesday in Nashville, and although coach Jon Cooper laid the blame elsewhere, you can’t escape the fact that back-up Curtis McElhinney made only 15 saves for a miserable .682 save percentage. You can expect a different Tampa team on Thursday against the Florida Panthers with No. 1 Andrei Vasilevskiy likely back in goal.

Tampa and Florida locked in three-way race

Tampa, which is still a favorite in the NHL Stanley Cup odds, got blown out 7-2 to Nashville. Will they turn it around against Florida on Thursday?

Tampa’s Steven Stamkos will likely miss his third straight game. The Panthers are shorthanded too. Having lost defenseman Aaron Ekblad to a season-ending injury, they acquired Buffalo defenseman Brandon Montour as a replacement at the trade deadline.

In other injury news, Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe is listed as week-to-week. But Florida winger Anthony Duclair has returned after missing six games.

Tampa, Carolina and Florida locked in a three-way tie at the top of the Central Division. There is not much to choose between Tampa (28-12-2) and Florida (27-12-4).

Florida is 7-3-0 in the last 10 games. Tampa is no longer the team that steamrolled through the first two months of the season. They are 4-6 in their last 10.

When I go about making my NHL picks, I look at new faces in the lineup. Newly acquired Tampa defenseman David Savard made his debut on Tuesday. He was a minus-4 in 19:23 of ice time. The status of newly acquired Panthers forward Sam Bennett is not yet known.

When I’m making my NHL predictions, I look at recent results. Florida lost three straight before edging Dallas 3-2 in overtime on Tuesday. But the bounces haven’t been going their way. Maybe their luck turns.

The starting goalies will likely be Andrei Vasilevskiy for Tampa (25-6-1) and Sergei Bobrovsky (15-7-2) for Florida.

The season series is locked at 2-2. The last game on March 21 went to Tampa, 5-3. All of the games have been high scoring, with each game seeing at least seven total goals.

II think the best sports bet today is taking Florida (-201) to cover the Puck Line (+1.5) with 10Bet. A riskier wager, and one I’m tempted to make because of the potential payout, is Florida with the Money Line (+125) with 10Bet.

Although these teams have scored bushels of goals when they meet, I think this is a tighter game, and I’m taking the Under (-103) on total goals (5.5) with 10Bet.

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  • The total has gone Under in four of Florida’s last five games.
  • Florida is 7-3 SU in their last 10 games.
  • The total has gone Over in four of Tampa’s last five games.
  • Tampa has gone 15-4 SU in their last 19 games at home.

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I live in the land of ice and snow in Toronto, Canada's largest city. I can't skate very well, but I know sports, especially hockey, after a long career writing about the Toronto Maple Leafs and other teams at the country's largest newspaper, the Toronto Star. Betting on sports can be a rewarding experience when you understand the trends and underlying characteristics of the teams and players before laying down a bet. That's how I hope to point you in the right direction.