NHL Hockey Preview for February 14, 2015&h=253&w=372&zc=1

Busy day in the National Hockey League on Saturday with a day game and nine games. Here are some best bets:

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS AT NEW YORK ISLANDERS:

The Jackets are coming off a scrappy overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers and in the process beat the Flyers for the sixth straight time at home. Wayne Simmonds scored a pair for the Flyers but it wasn’t enough as Philly blew a two goal lead. The Islanders also played last night, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs in a game that was more difficult than it should have been.

So here’s the situation heading into this game–the New York Islanders enter on a three game winning streak and are holding on to a slim one point lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins atop the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins aren’t their only concern–the New York Rangers are three points back and the Washington Capitals are four points back. The Jackets aren’t going anywhere this year–they’re currently 12 points out of the final Wild Card spot and without their starting goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. In all fairness, Curtis McElhinney has played very well in place of Bobrovsky but the Jackets will have to do better than .500 hockey to even think about the postseason.

The Islanders should definitely be favored here but–to paraphrase the great Bob Barker–the ‘price isn’t right’. The Islanders are a -255 favorite against a Jackets team that’s been playing decent hockey. This price means that C-Bus is a bigger underdog than the Toronto Maple Leafs–a team that is 1-8-1 in their last ten games? True, the Islanders have handled Metropolitan Division rivals well (17-2) and have mopped up against opponents with losing records (18-7). Another concern–they’ve got a game against the New York Rangers on deck making this a potential lookahead spot. We’ll take the price with C-Bus.

BET COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS +220 OVER NEW YORK ISLANDERS

WINNIPEG JETS AT DETROIT RED WINGS:

The Winnipeg Jets are looking for their first win in the post-Evander Kane era in Saturday’s non-conference game as they travel to Detroit to face the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. It didn’t get off to a good start on Thursday night as Nashville beat the Jets at the Bridgestone Arena 3-1. Winnipeg has lost 7 of their last 9 games and now have three teams within a half dozen points of their wild card spot. Detroit lost in their previous game at Pittsburgh but have been in excellent form winning 8 of 10 and now just 3 points behind Montreal and Tampa Bay for the Atlantic Division lead.

The Jets deserve at least partial credit for the loss in Nashville–few teams look good playing in the toughest building in hockey against the best team in the NHL. That being said, the Jets need to improve their defense which has been their primary strength all season long. Michael Hutchinson will get the start tonight and he’s also in substandard form. Winnipeg has dropped into #10 in goals against per game and with a pop gun offense (#20 in goals scored per game) they’re not going to outscore anyone.

Detroit will start Jimmy Howard in goal–he’s making his return to action after spending most of the season on injured reserve. The Wings’ only losses in the past two weeks have come in very tough situations (at Tampa Bay, at Pittsburgh). Typically, we look to play ‘West against East’ in non-conference games but we’re mindful of the Red Wings’ 12-3 record against the Western Conference this season. They’ve also cleaned house against opponents with losing records going 19-9 while the Jets have lost 19 of 27 against opponents over .500. Some concern that Jimmy Howard might still have some rust to play off but even so the Wings should be able to beat Winnipeg.

BET DETROIT RED WINGS -155 OVER WINNIPEG JETS