Flames won’t be doused easily in Tampa

The best in the west meets the top dogs from the east in the pick of Wednesday’s matches as the Tampa Bay Lightning welcome Calgary Flames to the sunshine state for a potential Stanley Cup finals preview.

This is a fixture the road team has enjoyed in recent times and even with the Lightning having the best home record in the Eastern Conference this year; it might be worth siding with underdogs Calgary to lay down an early marker for the play-offs, with them 8.50 for the Stanley Cup.

The Flames have been enjoying life on the road recently, despite defeat at Vancouver on Saturday night, winning four of the last six away from home.

Calgary might be happy to escape the confines of Canada after a disappointing defeat to San Jose on Friday, a result which allowed the Fins to trim the Flames lead to a single point at the top of the Western Conference.

It is a similar story for Tampa – although their lead in the East is considerably bigger – after a run of five defeats from the last 11, including a shock shutout loss to St Louis on Friday. For the highest scoring team in the league, goals haven’t always been easy to come by for the Lightning recently, who are 2.75 to top the Eastern Conference, although they looked more like their old selves in Sunday’s 5-4 win over Pittsburgh Penguins.

Nikita Kucherov, who has been the source of inspiration so often for Tampa this season with 81 points from 54 games, is also struggling and hasn’t scored for 10 outings. The Hart Trophy favourite has only managed on career goal against Calgary to boot.

With the road team winning the last five matches and given Tampa’s recent issue, take Calgary on the puck line.

Colorado needing to stop Avalanche of losses

Colorado are in danger of missing out on the play-offs after a dreadful run of form which has seen them lose nine of the last 11. One of their two wins during that time came against Toronto and it is the Maple Leafs who provide the opposition on Wednesday.

The Bay Street Bullies have won four straight to keep up the pressure on the Lightning in the Eastern Conference but they haven’t liked playing the Avs recently, losing four of the last five meetings, including a 6-3 defeat at home just last month.

However, they head to the Pepsi Center with an inspired Auston Matthews – fresh from signing a five-year, $58.17million contract – leading the way. Matthews has five points in his last six games, while John Tavares continues to win the hearts and minds of the Toronto faithful, scoring the overtime winner against Montreal on Saturday.

With Colorado having lost the last four on home ice, conceding no fewer than four in each game in that run, take Toronto in a high-scoring game.

Boston next up for resurgent Hawks

Chicago have given themselves a chance of a wildcard spot with their recent six-match winning run. The Blackhawks now head to TD Garden in a repeat of this year’s Winter Classic, which the Bruins were somewhat fortunate to win.

Home ice has been crucial in the is fixture recently, the road side losing the last five, but the Hawks have won the last three on the road and have been boosted by the news goaltender Corey Crawford is close to a return from his concussion.

Boston’s home form recently has been very patchy, Saturday’s overtime win against the LA Kings makings it three victories from eight, and it might be worth taking a chance on Chicago at 2.65.