Be very wary of betting NHL games in the final week or so of the regular season. The bad teams are tanking to improve draft lottery position and some of the good teams are resting key players ahead of the postseason. Here’s a look at two intriguing matchups this weekend. Check back for NHL odds.

Must-Bet NHL Weekend Games

Colorado at Edmonton, Friday

Puck drops at 9 p.m. ET and can be streamed on ESPN+. The Avalanche have clinched the best record in the Western Conference but are still battling Florida for the Presidents’ Trophy. Edmonton will be in the playoffs, it’s just a matter of where it finishes in the Pacific Division. These are two of the best offensive teams in the league.

Colorado remains without one of its star forwards in Gabriel Landeskog (59 points). Landeskog (knee) did not travel with the Avs for their three-game road trip but is expected to start skating at home. Landeskog has already missed the team’s last 17 contests and will be on the shelf for at least three more. Another star, Mikko Rantanen, missed Wednesday’s game with a non-COVID illness and is in question for Friday. He has 36 goals and 55 assists.

Young Avs blueliner Cal Makar has 84 points this season, a franchise record for the most points by a defenseman. Steve Duchesne’s 82 points was the mark, accomplished during Colorado’s 1992-93 season. Makar has 178 points through 174 games, the most ever by an NHL defenseman through that span. He is one of four blueliners in history to average a point-per-game in their career – with a minimum of 100 games played – joining Bobby Orr (1.39), Harry Cameron (1.10) and Paul Coffey (1.09).

Edmonton’s Connor McDavid leads the NHL with 113 points. He had three points in Wednesday’s win over Dallas and has five points over his last three games. McDavid posted his 14th multi-point game in his last 20 outings, and now has 43 goals and 70 assists through 76 games. Goaltender Mike Smith has surrendered two or fewer goals in six consecutive starts. He has allowed one or fewer goals in all but two of those six starts, including two shutouts.

Colorado is 2-0 in the season series, winning each by one goal. The Avs prevailed in the last meeting 2-1 in a shootout in Edmonton on April 9. Nathan MacKinnon scored the shootout winner after having Colorado’s lone goal in regulation. Darcy Kuemper made 49 saves for the Avalanche. While Edmonton had its full regular lineup, Colorado was without Landeskog (knee), Nazem Kadri (upper body) and Ryan Murray (upper body).

Toronto at Florida, Saturday

Puck drops at 7 p.m. ET and streamed on ESPN+. This could be an Eastern Conference semifinals preview. The Panthers have won the Atlantic Division, while Toronto will most likely finish second.

Leafs superstar Auston Matthews has missed three straight games with an undisclosed injury but may return here.  Matthews, the NHL goal-scoring leader remains stuck at 58 goals, is aiming for his second Rocket Richard Trophy and possibly his first Hart Trophy. But the team is stressing it’s more important to have Matthews as healthy as possible for the playoffs than to pursue individual achievements.

“We all want everyone to be ready to go when the time comes, so whatever he needs, he needs,” said winger Mitch Marner. “Obviously we do miss him out there, but there’s bigger things ahead that we need him to be ready for.”

The 58 goals are the highest total in the league since Steven Stamkos had 60 for the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2011-12. More important for Toronto fans, it is a Leafs record, surpassing the 54 scored by Rick Vaive in 1981-82.

Florida is the best offensive team in the NHL and battling Colorado for the Presidents’ Trophy. Star defenseman Aaron Ekblad has been out since March 18 because of a lower-body injury but should be back for the postseason.

“Yeah, I’m hoping we don’t have any setbacks and he continues to ramp up a little bit,” coach Andrew Brunette said this week. He’s been skating last week or so. We have to be very conscious with him a little bit. We don’t we don’t want to push him too hard. His body will tell him when he’s ready to go, but it was a positive sign to see him. Hopefully we started integrating him here in practice and day-to-day activities with our group.”


 

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