The fourth-seeded Penguins lead the fifth-seeded Lightning by five points in the East, and with these teams heading in opposite directions lately look for the Pens to secure the four spot here.
Home ice advantage in the first round of the NHL Playoffs may be at stake tonight, as one of the NHL matchups sees the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, the Pittsburgh Penguins (45-24-8 overall, 21-10-6 away) paying a visit to the fifth-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning (41-24-11 overall, 23-11-5 home) at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, FL at 7:30 ET..Free NHL Pick:
The Lightning were one safely the second seed in the East, but they have slipped all the way down to fifth by going a dismal 4-10 in their last 14 games, a streak that has included bad home losses to the likes of the New York Islanders and the Ottawa Senators. Meanwhile, the Penguins have been climbing the standings, as they just had a four-game winning streak snapped Tuesday vs. the Flyers.
The NHL latest line from Pinnacle Sports for this contest is Pittsburgh +112 on the Money Line on the road.
As a result of the recent performances by these teams, the Penguins now lead the Lightning by five points, so a Pittsburgh win on the road tonight would all but wrap up home ice advantage in the first round. Given that the Penguins have recorded almost as many points on the road this season (48) as they have at home (50), we look for them to get that critical road win tonight on the NHL odds.
Granted, the home teams have won all three head-to-head meetings this season, with the Penguins winning twice in Pittsburgh and the Lightning winning the only encounter here in Tampa so far, but the current form of each team suggests that Pittsburgh should break through with the road win.
The Penguins may also get an inspirational lift during practice before the game, as Sidney Crosby has finally been cleared to participate for the first tine since going down with a concussion way back on January 5, and although Crosby has still not been cleared for full contact drills and thus is nor ready for game action yet, just knowing that his return is now closer has to be uplifting with the playoffs coming up.
Marc-Andre Fleury is the probable starter in bet for the Penguins tonight, and although he had an off night vs. the Flyers, he had allowed a total of just two goals on 79 shots while winning his previous three starts, and we expect him to bounce back strong tonight. Fleury is 34-19-5 in NHL betting this season while ranking eighth in the league with a 2.32 GAA while owning a nice .918 save percentage.
Dwayne Roloson is the probable starter in bet for the Lightning, and he has been rather erratic this season with a very ordinary 2.64 GAA, and he has struggled mightily vs. Pittsburgh in his career. In fact, Roloson has lost his last four starts vs. the Penguins while recording a very ugly 5.40 GAA.
Granted, Tampa Bay has busted out for nine goals in the last two games, both wins after going 2-10 in their previous 12 games. However, five of those goals came last game here at home in a revenge math vs. Ottawa, and the Lightning should face much more resistance tonight from a Pittsburgh defense that ranks seventh in the NHL is goals against at just 2.40 per game.
Look for the Penguins to virtually secure the fourth seed in the East and the first round home ice advantage that cones with it with a nice road win on the NHL betting odds tonight.