The San Jose Sharks (6-4-0) return home after a successful road trip only to be greeted by one of the hottest teams in NHL Hockey right now, the Pittsburgh Penguins (8-3-2), who will look to shake off a rocky history in San Jose tonight in a great NHL Hockey match-up for online sportsbook betting.
Though both teams have lost their most recent outings, the Sharks and the Penguins have each won 5 of their last 6 games, including a pair of 5-game winning streaks. San Jose shook off a season-opening 3-game losing streak by hitting the road hard beginning October 21st, and after almost completing a perfect journey away from HP Pavillion, the Sharks look to regain form and improve their stature on home ice. After a 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Monday, the Sharks will look to take advantage of a Pittsburgh team that they’ve had pretty much their way with in order rebound back into the win column, and could be in for a good chance at doing so considering the Sharks have won 11 of the last 13 meetings between these two teams, including going 8-0-0 with 1 tie at home since 1997.
Pittsburgh could face a daunting task tonight at San Jose if they aren’t able to get star defenseman Kris Letang and center Jordan Staal into the line-up, two players that as of this post are still not confirmed starts. Letang has been especially important for the Penguins of late, providing a team-leading 10 assists, and without him on the ice in this road match-up, the odds for the Sharks to win seemingly would be considerably better as Letang’s presence on both offense and defense is equally important. However, Pittsburgh has been noted for being one of the best teams at overcoming player injuries, relying on an outstanding defensive unit to shutdown opposing scorers, and that figures to be one of the keys for the Penguins in tonight’s game against a Sharks team that ranks 9th in the league in scoring (2.9 goals/game) and 7th in the league on the power play (22.1 percent). With Pittsburgh ranking 3rd in the league in goals against (2.1) and having the second best penalty kill (92.1 pct.), there is little doubt they’ll be focused on shutting down the likes of Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Ryane Clowe and Patrick Marleau to keep the Sharks big scorers in check, and with Marc-Andre Fleury in goal after taking the last game off on Saturday, expect all the Penguins to be contributing to shutting down the Sharks on their home ice. However, in order to win this tough road match-up, Pittsburgh is also going to have to do a lot better at getting key guys going, and fixing the awful 1-for-23 power play against the Sharks while losing 6 of the last 7 games against them.
San Jose will likely lean on goalie Antti Niemi in tonight’s contest, who has been very solid against the Penguins sporting a 2-0-1 record with a 1.61 goals allowed average. Despite giving up a very high 3.56 GAA over the road trip and surrendering a season-high 5 goals at New York in the Sharks most recent loss, Niemi has been historically good at settling down in big games at home, and seeks his first victory there this year in tonight’s game. One big thing that would help Niemi out tonight is if the Sharks can contain their slumping penalty kill, which has been exploited 10 times already this season, allowing almost one goal per game. With the Penguins power play ranked 8th in the league at 21.8 percent, that could be major factor in this match-up, especially if San Jose pushes a more physical game and stays near their average of almost 12 penalty minutes given up per outing. However, if San Jose can keep the physical play clean and the talented corps of defensemen including Dan Boyle, Brent Burns, Douglas Murray and Marc-Edouard Vlasic eliminating pressure in the San Jose zone, the Sharks could tip the balance of power in their favor for tonight’s game.
Betting Lines for Pittsburgh vs. San Jose
With the Sharks at home and considering their previous and most recent history against the Penguins, San Jose gets the favorite nod at -139 odds on the money line at Betonline.com today. Pittsburgh gets +127 odds on the money line as underdog, and will take +1.5 goals at -240 odds on the spread, indicative of a high likelihood this game will be a close affair. San Jose gets +200 odds to cover 1.5 goals, and with an over/under at 5.5 goals (-130 under, +120 over) this match-ups looks to be well-fought and possibly on the higher scoring side with two talented scoring teams in play.
Our Pick to Win:
Considering how well the Pittsburgh Penguins have played over the past few years, its slightly astonishing how much the San Jose Sharks have owned them over time. As both teams come into this match-up playing well generally but suffering a recent loss, we can expect a hard-fought game with both teams pushing to get the scoring going early to set a tone. I’d keep close tabs on this game to see what the status of Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang and Jordan Staal will be, as without those two key components, San Jose has a much easier time at getting shots on goal, and keeping the puck from moving around while its in their own zone. Either way, I have to hedge a bet on San Jose. While they haven’t played that well at home, their form is improving, Antti Niemi has been very good against the Pittsburgh offense, and home ice advantage always pays off at the rockin’ HP Pavillion. San Jose wins this featured Thursday night game, 4-2.