St Louis (30-17-9) at Florida (32-16-6)
When: Friday, February 12th 2016
Where: BB&T Center, Sunrise, FL
Time: 7:35 ET | TV: FSN Midwest, FSN Florida
The surprising Florida Panthers will begin a six-game homestand on Friday against the St. Louis Blues and will include five teams from the Western Conference. The Panthers are off to their second-best start in franchise history at 32-16-6 thanks in part to the superb goaltending of Roberto Luongo. The veteran, in his third season and second stint with Florida, has a goals-against average of just 2.17 and a .928 SV%. He even stopped 20-of-22 shots in the offensive-minded All-Star Game. Luongo has won five of his last six starts to keep Florida atop the Atlantic Division – six points ahead of Detroit. Florida’s No. 2 line of Vincent Trocheck, Jussi Jokinen and Reilly Smith continues to produce, combining for three goals and eight points in Tuesday’s 7-4 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Smith has six goals and 11 points in his last nine games, Jokinen has 12 points in his last eight and Trocheck has five goals and 11 points in his last seven contests. The Panthers will play three games in four days starting tonight with Nashville Saturday and Pittsburgh on Monday.
The St. Louis Blues are having trouble scoring goals and as a result have lost four of their last six contests. They have scored just one goal or less in five of those games. They capped a three-game homestand with a 2-1 shootout loss to Winnipeg on Tuesday. Jaden Schwartz, who scored a career-best 28 goals last season, will return to the lineup after missing 49 games due to a fractured left ankle and looks to provide a boost for the offense. Goaltender Brian Elliott will make his 13th consecutive start tonight and despite the Blues offensive ineptitude, has been brilliant. He has surrendered just nine goals in his last seven games including a 1-0 shutout over Nashville a few weeks ago. Elliott (2.07 GAA, .932 SV%) has made 30 or more saves in eight of the last ten games. Drawing some penalties might be the key to get the offense going again. St. Louis is 6th in the NHL on the power play (20.4%), but are also 3rd at killing penalties (86.2%). Vladimir Tarasenko, who has 26 goals and 47 points this season, has only one point in the last seven games and has a +1 rating this season after a +27 last year.
You have to love this Panthers team this season with the 43-year old Jaromir Jagr and a youthful bunch. This should be a low-scoring affair, but I’ll take the Panthers who are 11-1-1 in their last 13 at home.
Pick: Panthers -118