Tue, Mar 9, 2021
By Jim Vassallo (Veri.bet Writer)
The Central Division race in the NHL is a tight one. The top four teams are separated by a total of five points. The Tampa Bay Lightning lead the division with 36 points coming into Tuesday night’s slate of games.
The Lightning has the Carolina Hurricanes (35 points) and the Florida Panthers (34 points) right on their heels. The Columbus Blue Jackets are not far behind. They sit in fifth place with 25 points. Carolina has made the race interesting of late by winning five straight.
With the Florida Panthers (15-5-4, 3rd place) visiting the Columbus Blue Jackets (10-11-5, 5th place) at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday night, this is a game to keep a close eye on in the Central Division.
The Panthers have played to a 5-3-2 mark in their last 10 games, averaging 3.2 goals scored per game, while allowing 2.5 goals per game.
Anthony Duclair has been ruled out with a lower-body injury for Florida, while Anton Stralman is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
The Panthers and Blue Jackets split the first two games of their eight-game regular-season series, with both games ending in shootouts. These two teams will meet again on Thursday, March 11, and then not again until April 3.
The Blue Jackets have been able to keep pace in the Central race despite going just 3-6-1 in their last 10 games played and with a -16 goal differential on the season. Columbus is averaging just 2.2 goals scored per game in their last 10 and has allowed an average of 3.0 goals per game.
Columbus will be without Elvis Merzlikins, who is nursing an upper-body injury.
Florida is led on the attack by Jonathan Huberdeau (10 goals, 19 assists, 29 points). For the season, the Panthers are averaging 3.29 goals scored per game, while allowing an average of 2.83 goals per game.
Columbus is led offensively by Cam Atkinson with 10 goals and 19 points. Seth Jones leads the team with 12 assists. The Blue Jackets are averaging just 2.62 goals scored per game and allowing 3.19 goals per game.
Tonight’s Central Division contest between Florida and Columbus is an important one even with five games left between the two teams. Florida can make a statement with a win while keeping pace with division leaders Tampa Bay and Carolina.
On the flip side of things, Columbus can show the rest of the division that they won’t go away easily if they can take down the Panthers tonight. Should Florida jump on Columbus early, this could be an easy win for the Panthers on the road, where they have an 8-2-1 record this year.
Even though these teams split the first two meetings of the season via shootout, look for Florida to come away victorious tonight. The over-under is set at 5.5 goals, but your best bet is to take Florida and the money line of -135.