Stanley Cup Playoffs: Wednesday’s NHL betting preview

Wednesday night gives us our first elimination game of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Washington Capitals looking to put away the Philadelphia Flyers. In the other three games the Panthers, Wild, and Kings look to avoid going down three games to one.

Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers (A: -175, H: +155, O/U: 5)

Captials lead series 3-0

The Washington Capitals are looking every bit like the team that set a franchise record for wins en route to capturing its second Presidents’ Trophy while the Philadelphia Flyers may be running on empty after motoring to the final wild-card spot following a 15-5-3 run. The Capitals aim to complete a sweep of a best-of seven series for the first time in franchise history on Wednesday when they play Game 4 of their first-round series in Philadelphia.

Special teams continue to be the story of the series as Washington scored a staggering five times on the power play in Monday’s 6-1 victory in Game 3. The Capitals are 8-for-17 with the man advantage after the first three contests while the Flyers have failed on all 13 of their opportunities. Philadelphia, in fact, has solved Braden Holtby on only two occasions despite unleashing 93 shots on the front-runner for this season’s Vezina Trophy. The biggest scare for Holtby may have come during Tuesday’s practice as a collision with a teammate initially left him favoring his left leg, but coach Barry Trotz told reporters that the goaltender is expected to be in net for Game 4.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, CSN-DC (Washington), CSN Philadelphia

MATCHUP CHART:

ABOUT THE CAPITALS (59-18-8, 40-45 ATS, 34-34 O/U): Brooks Orpik has been ruled out of Wednesday’s contest by Trotz after the defenseman suffered an upper-body injury on a hit from Philadelphia fourth-liner Ryan White. “We just have to play strong, tough, physical and responsible. I mean, that’s what (Orpik) does every time he’s out there, so that’s how we’ll have to do it,” blue-liner Karl Alzner said of the group’s mindset of playing without Orpik, who missed 41 games this season with a lower-body injury. While Matt Niskanen and John Carlson have logged heavy minutes in the series, fellow defenseman Nate Schmidt is expected to see an uptick in ice time and either Mike Weber or Taylor Chorney will draw in the lineup on Wednesday.

ABOUT THE FLYERS (41-30-14, 46-39 ATS, 33-31 O/U): Philadelphia may be shuffling goaltenders after Steve Mason (0-3-0, .852 save percentage) allowed all six goals on Monday, this on the heels of permitting an unfathomable 101-foot tally in Game 2. “If I get the call I’m going to be ready and I’ll try to enjoy it and help my teammates,” backup Michal Neuvirth told reporters on Tuesday. The 28-year-old has only played in two games since March 5, but his 18 wins this season were his most since recording 27 with Washington in 2010-11.

TRENDS:

* Capitals are 4-0 in their last 4 Conference Quarterfinals games.
* Flyers are 1-4 in their last 5 vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
* Under is 5-1-1 in Capitals last 7 games following a win.
* Over is 7-1-3 in Flyers last 11 following a loss of 3 or more goals.
* Capitals are 4-1 in the last 5 meetings.

Florida Panthers at New York Islanders (A: -110, H: -110, O/U: 5)

Islanders lead series 2-1

The New York Islanders only need to look back to their first-round loss to Washington in 2015 in an effort to avoid getting ahead of themselves in this year’s set with the Florida Panthers. Both playoff series have followed the same path in the early going, with the Islanders splitting a pair on the road and claiming an overtime victory in the third contest heading into Wednesday’s Game 4 against the visiting Panthers.

“All of us have been through it another year, and that experience goes a long way,” said captain John Tavares, who set up a pair of tallies in New York’s 4-3 overtime win on Sunday to extend his point streak to seven games (six goals, nine assists). “It’s amazing how much more you understand the ebbs and flows of a playoff series, game to game, day to day, even period to period. I think we’re just well prepared.” The Islanders need to up the ante on their preparation for Florida’s Reilly Smith, who has recorded eight points (four goals, four assists) in the series – including three (one goal, two assists) in Game 3. “Reilly was awesome,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. “Every game, that line’s been real good for us. He’s contributed big time and put pucks in the net.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, USA, SN, TVAS2, FSN Florida, MSG-Plus (New York)

MATCHUP CHART:

ABOUT THE PANTHERS (48-27-10, 43-42 ATS, 35-32 O/U): While Gallant praised the second line of Smith, Nick Bjugstad and Jussi Jokinen, the coach was quick to compliment the top line of Jaromir Jagr, Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau as well. “They’re playing well, they’re working hard, they’re getting all kinds of chances, so what can you do?” Gallant said of the three players, who have combined for just four points (one goal, three assists). Although Jagr recorded 27 goals and a team-high 66 points in the regular season, the future Hall of Famer has not scored in his last 34 playoff games and has been held without a point in each contest of the series.

ABOUT THE ISLANDERS (47-28-10, 35-50 ATS, 36-41 O/U): Thomas Hickey didn’t just give New York the upper hand in the series on Sunday, the defenseman also made history by becoming the lone player in franchise history to score both his first career regular-season goal and first playoff tally in overtime. Rookie blue-liner Ryan Pulock also netted his first postseason goal in Game 3 and followed that up with an assist on Shane Prince’s tally six minutes later. “I think at this point right now, this is the best I’ve felt,” Pulock told the team’s website. “Every game you get more comfortable, more confident … to be able to play here quite a bit lately, it’s really helped with that.”

TRENDS:

* Panthers are 1-4 in their last 5 Conference Quarterfinals games.
* Islanders are 8-1 in their last 9 Wednesday games.
* Over is 5-0-1 in Panthers last 6 road games vs. a team with a home winning % of greater than .600.
* Over is 4-0 in Islanders last 4 home games.
* Over is 6-0-1 in the last 7 meetings in New York.

Dallas Stars at Minnesota Wild (A: -120, H: +100, O/U: 5)

Stars lead series 2-1

Having withstood a potential knockout blow in their first game on their home ice, the Minnesota Wild used a stirring comeback to climb back into their Western Conference first-round series against the Dallas Stars. Buoyed by an offensive eruption, the Wild look to knot the series when they host Dallas in Wednesday’s Game 4.

Minnesota appeared on the verge of a quick ouster after falling behind by a pair of goals in the first 4:10 of Game 3, particularly since it scored a combined one goal in a pair of losses at Dallas. “We threw the kitchen sink at them,” forward Erik Haula said after the Wild responded with four unanswered goals en route to a 5-3 victory on Monday night. The top-seeded Stars wilted after their fast start and managed only 17 shots on goal. “That might have been our worst game of the year,” Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said after his team lost for only the third time in 14 contests.

TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, Sportsnet 360, TVAS 3, FSN Southwest (Dallas), FSN North/Wisconsin (Minnesota)

MATCHUP CHART:

ABOUT THE STARS (52-24-9, 42-43 ATS, 46-38 O/U): Patrick Sharp, who won three Stanley Cups in the previous six seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, scored twice Monday to stake Dallas to the early lead but called it “an opportunity lost” following Tuesday’s practice session. Stars captain Jamie Benn sat out practice for what Ruff termed a maintenance day while defenseman Kris Russell returned to practice after missing Game 3 due to illness, but it remains uncertain if he will be back in the lineup. Although Kari Lehtonen has started the first three games in net, there remains the possibility of Ruff turning to Antti Niemi, who matched Lehtonen with 25 wins.

ABOUT THE WILD (39-35-11, 41-44 ATS, 30-37 O/U): Minnesota coach John Torchetti challenged some of his veteran players to step up their games and he got the desired response as captain Mikko Koivu scored for only the third time in 31 postseason games and Jason Pominville supplied a pair of tallies and an assist. “We could’ve easily stepped back and folded and not responded,” said Pominville, who netted the go-ahead tally before sealing the victory with an empty-net goal. “But we kept pushing and wanted more.” Forward Thomas Vanek participated in Tuesday’s optional skate but will remain sidelined along with leading goal scorer Zach Parise.

TRENDS:

* Stars are 8-2 in their last 10 overall.
* Wild are 1-7 in their last 8 overall.
* Under is 4-1 in Stars last 5 games playing on 1 days rest.
* Over is 8-1 in Wild last 9 when their opponent allows 5 goals or more in their previous game.
* Over is 5-0 in the last 5 meetings in Minnesota.

Los Angeles Kings at San Jose Sharks (A: +100, H: -120, O/U: 5)

Sharks lead series 2-1

With another historic comeback no longer necessary, the Los Angeles Kings attempt to even their first-round series when they visit the San Jose Sharks for a pivotal Game 4 on Wednesday. Los Angeles opened the matchup by dropping a pair of one-goal decisions at home and were in danger of needing its second rally from an 0-3 deficit versus San Jose in three years before Tanner Pearson scored 3:47 into overtime Monday to keep the club from being pushed to the brink of elimination.

“It was just about cutting the series in half tonight,” Kings captain Dustin Brown, who assisted on Pearson’s winning goal, told reporters afterward. “That’s what our mindset was coming up here; we accomplished that tonight. Recover and reload for Game 4.” Despite keeping the Sharks off the board after Joe Thornton scored 30 seconds into Game 3, Jonathan Quick and company will need to be better from the drop of the first puck as San Jose has scored on its first shot in each of the first three contests. That has made taking a lead very difficult as Los Angeles has been ahead for a total of only 4 minutes, 2 seconds through the first three games. The Sharks outshot the Kings 23-11 after the first period but continued to struggle at home, where they went 18-20-3 during the regular season.

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, USA, CBC, TVA, FSN West (Los Angeles), CSN California (San Jose)

MATCHUP CHART:

ABOUT THE KINGS (49-30-6, 29-56 ATS, 29-34 O/U): Los Angeles was superb on the penalty kill in Game 3, keeping San Jose — which ranked third on the power play during the regular season (22.5 percent) — scoreless on five opportunities after allowing two goals on nine chances during the first two contests. “We found a way,” Brown told reporters. “(Quick) made some big saves, blocked shots, couple bobbled pucks on their side — breaks that we needed to get, and that was probably the difference in the game, our PK.” Drew Doughty has yet to record a point in the series but continues to log an extraordinary amount of ice time, playing over 29 minutes in each of the first two games before seeing 35:01 of action Monday.

ABOUT THE SHARKS (48-30-7, 40-45 ATS, 43-35 O/U): Joe Pavelski was kept off the scoresheet in Game 3 for the first time in the series and held to just one shot on goal. The captain recorded three goals and an assist in the first two games after registering four tallies and 10 points in the five regular-season meetings between the Pacific Division rivals. Thornton’s goal on Monday was his 102nd career postseason point, breaking a tie with Scott Gomez and Hall-of-Famer Bernie Federko for 86th place on the all-time list.

TRENDS:

* Kings are 1-4 in their last 5 road games vs. a team with a losing home record.
* Sharks are 10-2 in their last 12 after scoring 2 goals or less in their previous game.
* Over is 6-1-2 in Kings last 9 Wednesday games.
* Under is 12-3-1 in Sharks last 16 when their opponent allows 2 goals or less in their previous game.
* Road team is 7-1 in the last 8 meetings.

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