Tampa Bay (34-22-4) at New Jersey (30-25-7)
When: Friday, February 26th 2016
Where: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
Time: 7:05 ET | TV: FSN Sun, MSG Plus
Two teams hopeful of making the playoffs this year meet up in Newark as the New Jersey Devils host the Tampa Bay Lightning. The slumping Devils begin the night one point behind Pittsburgh for the 8th and final playoff spot, but they have played three more games than the Penguins. New Jersey, which is dead last night the league in scoring (2.2 goals/game), have lost four of their last five games. They allowed 19 goals combined over the last five games after surrendering 10 during a solid 4-1-2 stretch that had the Devils thinking playoffs. Reid Boucher, who has collected 10 points (five goals) in 20 games since being recalled, had the only goal for New Jersey in a 6-1 loss to Columbus on Thursday. Goalie Cory Schneider was yanked after the first period after allowing three goals on 11 shots. It was the first time the Devils had allowed three first period goals all season. Lee Stempniak has cooled off of late, but leads the team with 41 points, while Kyle Palmieri (40) has a team-high 23 goals after scoring three in the last five games and Adam Henrique (38) is slumping with one assist in his last six games.
Tampa Bay is in an interesting spot right now with 21 games remaining. The Bolts are just five points behind Florida for first place in the Atlantic Division and the second seed, but are also five points from falling completely out of the playoff picture. The Lightning’s offense has been clicking and have helped them win their last four games, but they begin a tough four-game road trip tonight. Tampa has scored 16 goals in their current streak after a 2-1 victory over Arizona on Tuesday. The Lightning could get leading point producer Nikita Kucherov (49 points) back from a two-game absence due to a lower-body injury. Steven Stamkos (47 points) has been a more productive player since moving back to center with Ryan Callahan (23 points) and Alex Killorn (30 points) on his wings. The trio has combined for eight goals and eight assists in the past five games as Callahan snapped out of a big slump with three goals and three assists in that span and Stamkos increased his team-high total to 26 goals. Ben Bishop is expected to be back in net after being rested Tuesday and has impressive numbers against the Devils (4-2-0, 1.46 goals-against average, .946 save percentage).
I have to go with the hotter team in this one despite the fact that Tampa has been a little inconsistent all season. They get hot like this then cool off quickly. New Jersey is just 15-12-4 at home.
Pick: Lightning -135