Rested Capitals face Calgary test

The second half of the campaign is building up steam with plenty of action coming this weekend, and arguably the pick of the fixtures involves the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Washington Capitals.

The Capitals remain very much in contention to win the Metropolitan Division – for which they are priced at 11.00 to secure – lying third just three points behind the New York Islanders. But their recent form has not been good and they may have needed the bye week to re-group.

Fresh Ovechkin key for Caps

Alexander Ovechkin’s decision to swerve the All-Star Game did not ruin the division’s chances of success in San Jose, and it may just work in the Caps’s favour as they look to get their season back on track.

The champions have lost their last seven games, although two were in overtime, while they have only managed to score more than three goals in just two of those defeats.

Todd Reirden certainly needs his main man to fire, with Ovechkin still leading the NHL’s goal-scoring charts with a six-goal cushion, while TJ Oshie found some form in that losing run with seven points in the last three games.

The Caps do have home advantage on Saturday and are 1.80 favourites to resume their campaign with a win, but they face a stern test as the visitors are the Calgary Flames, who lead the Western Conference by six points.

The Caps did win at the Saddledome in the only other meeting between the two this season, but it could be worth siding with the Flames at 2.05 to exact revenge.

Flames too hot for champions

The Flames’ form is in stark contrast to their hosts as they have won their last three games, 10 of their last 12 with one of their two losses coming after over-time, and they will not be overawed by a trip to the Capital One Arena.

Johnny Gaudreau has been sensational for Calgary this season, leading the team for points, goals and assists to occupy third spot in the NHL points standings, and he can spark the Flames to a revenge win.

Speaking of revenge missions, the Tampa Bay Lightning should be fired up by their trip to the Barclays Center as they look to avenge a 5-1 defeat to the New York Islanders on their last visit there on January 14.

Lightning does not strike twice

The Lightning have been the team to beat this season, holding a five-point lead in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy with a game in hand, and they are the 3.75 favourites to win the Stanley Cup.

That defeat to the Islanders was a surprise to many, although Barry Trotz’s men have been doing a lot of that this season as few would have predicted them to be holding second place in the Eastern Conference standings at this stage.

The Islanders perhaps lack the offensive power of their rivals but do boast Robin Lehner in goal, who leads the league in save percentage at .931, while alternate Thomas Greiss – sixth in the NHL standings – actually saved 37 of 38 shots in that previous 5-1 win.

The home side will have their supporters at 2.30 but Lightning doesn’t strike twice and Tampa Bay – who won 4-2 against the Islanders at home earlier this season – can gain revenge at 1.64, while under 6.5 goals at 1.87 is worth considering.

Jets to compound Ducks woes

Winnipeg Jets only narrowly beat the Anaheim Ducks when the two sides met earlier this month, Bryan Little scoring the game winner with just seconds remaining in overtime.

The fact that Anaheim went close was a shock as the Ducks had lost their previous 10 games, albeit with three overtime losses, and although they have won two since, they have also lost three and go into this game on the back of a 5-1 hammering by the St Louis Blues.

There were extenuating circumstances for a laboured Jets performance, as that overtime win was their third game on three consecutive days, and fourth in five.

However, there should be no problems with fatigue this time around and, on the back of an overtime win over the Boston Bruins, the Jets can chalk up another win to keep their Western Conference outright hopes alive, currently priced as 5.00 second favourites.