Wednesday, March 22, 2017

NHL : Flames Look to Continue Dominance in Nashville on Thursday

The Calgary Flames (41-27-4 SU, 39-33 ATS) are roasting opponents. Since starting the first 16 games of the season 5-11, they’ve hit their stride, winning 12 of their last 13 games. They beat the Los Angeles Kings 5-2 on Sunday, and the Dallas Stars 3-1 on Friday. Goaltender Brian Elliott has been one of the big reasons the Flames have been on a tear. The 2X NHL All-Star has put up an impressive 15-1-1 record since January 26. He was between the pipes on February 21, when the Flames beat the Nashville Predators 6-5 in overtime.

Nashville (36-25-11 SU, 34-38 ATS) has been struggling to find consistency, mostly in net, where Pekka Rinne has been incredible at some points, and struggled at others.

There haven’t been concerns at the other end of the ice. With an average of 2.92 goals a game, Nashville’s offence ranks 10th in the league. Centreman Filip Forsberg has been a big contributor to Nashville’s highly-ranked offence. After starting the season with 13 scoreless games, he’s found the back of the net 29 times. The last time Forsberg faced the Calgary Flames, he got a hat trick.
The two Western Conference foes will meet for the third time this season at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday at 8 PM ET.

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NHL Odds: Offensive Battle Set for Thursday in Nashville

The last time the Nashville Predators played against the Calgary Flames, Calgary had a 4-1 lead five minutes into the second period. Nashville responded with four back-to-back goals, including a hat trick from centreman Filip Forsberg. Both teams went into overtime with five goals, and Calgary defenseman Mark Giordano (12 goals, 22 assists) scored the winning goal.

On Thursday at 8 PM ET, both teams face off again, but this time, the stakes are higher. Just Monday, Calgary was third in the Pacific division, and Nashville was the second wild card contender. They swapped places Tuesday, with Calgary settling for wild card status, and Nashville taking third in the Central Division. Will there be another round of musical chairs on Thursday?

NHL : Bolts-Bruins in Key Atlantic Division Battle

With about 10 games left in the regular season, the Atlantic Division is down to the wire. At least five teams have a decent shot at grabbing one of the three automatic playoff spots – or maybe even a Wild Card – including the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning, who meet this Thursday at the Garden. Game time is 7 PM ET on NESN.

The Bruins have vaulted back into third place in the Atlantic since firing head coach Claude Julien on February 7 and replacing him on an interim basis with Bruce Cassidy. But the Lightning have also played well during that span, much of that after trading No. 1 goalie Ben Bishop (.911 save percentage) to the Los Angeles Kings and handing the reins to Andrei Vasilevskiy (.916 SV%).

Unfortunately for the Bolts, injuries could prevent them from climbing out of fifth place in the Atlantic. Four of their top centers are on the shelf at press time. Tyler Johnson (19 goals), Vladislav Namestnikov (nine goals) and Cedric Paquette (four goals) are all day-to-day with lower-body injuries, while Steven Stamkos (nine goals in 17 games) might not return from his torn meniscus before the playoffs.

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NHL Odds: Playoff Ramifications for Bolts, Bruins

Thursday night’s matchup (7 PM ET, NESN) between the Boston Bruins and the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning could wind up deciding if either team makes the playoffs. Boston is third in the Atlantic Division; Tampa Bay is fifth with about 10 games remaining in the regular season.

Both teams have played well over the past month or so, but the Bolts find themselves in a pickle with four centers on the injured list. Steven Stamkos (knee) is still unlikely to return before the playoffs, while Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette are all day-to-day with lower-body injuries.

NBA : Hawks Visit Wizards in Meeting of Eastern Playoff Contenders

The Washington Wizards and Atlanta Hawks both seem to have a grip on a playoff spot. The two will meet on Wednesday at 8PM ET in the nation’s capital.

The Hawks aren’t a flashy team by any means, but they’re balanced offensively. They have six players, including Paul Millsap, averaging double digits for points. Unfortunately for them, their All-Star is expected to miss Wednesday’s contest because of tightness in his knee. The Hawks may have to rely a little more on their tough defense, which is sixth in opponent field goal percentage.

They’ll have their hands full with the Wizards, who are fifth in points scored. John Wall (23 points, almost 11 assists per game) and Bradley Beal (23 points) are finally fulfilling their promise in the backcourt, but the Wizards’ defense still has some work to do; they’re 22nd in points allowed.
Atlanta is 6-4 SU and 5-5 ATS in their last 10 meetings with the Wizards, who’ve won two of three games against the Hawks this season. Atlanta won the first meeting 114-99 at home in October, then the Wizards won 95-92 in Washington in November and then 112-86 in Atlanta in January.

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NBA Odds: Wizards Host Hawks on Wednesday

The Washington Wizards have played well at the Verizon Center this season. Their 27 home wins are the third-most in the NBA. But lately, they’ve been slumping at home, going just 3-3 over their last six home games.

The Wizards will host the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday, but to get the win, they’ll have to improve their defense. They gave up an average of 112 points per game in their last five games. Fortunately for the Wizards, the Hawks are one of the lowest-scoring away teams, averaging just 101.3 points per game on the road (23rd in NBA).
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NBA Odds: Anything Can Happen With Hawks-Wizards

Who will challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference playoffs? It could be either participant in Wednesday’s matchup (8 PM ET, ESPN) between the Washington Wizards and the visiting Atlanta Hawks. The Wizards lead the Southeast Division at 42-27 SU and 36-32-1 ATS; the Hawks are five games back at 37-32 SU and 31-38 ATS.

This will be the fourth time the Hawks and Wiz have done battle this season. Washington is ahead 2-1 SU and ATS, winning their last two meetings after dropping the season-opener in Atlanta. That loss was before the Hawks sent Kyle Korver (40.9% from long range) to the Cavaliers in early January. However, Atlanta added some talent at the trade deadline, picking up two-way power forward Ersan Ilyasova from the Philadelphia 76ers.

Washington also has some reinforcements for Wednesday’s contest. The Wiz acquired Bogan Bogdanovich (45.8% from downtown) from the Brooklyn Nets at the deadline, and they firmed up their bench by signing point guard Brandon Jennings when the New York Knicks cut him loose on March 1. But Washington’s biggest addition was the return of Ian Mahinmi from the injured list on February 8; they’re 12-6 SU and 6-11-1 ATS since.

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NBA Odds: Hawks, Wiz in Southeast Showdown

The Washington Wizards (42-27 SU, 36-32-1 ATS) can pretty much secure the Southeast Division title with a win Wednesday night over the Atlanta Hawks (37-32 SU, 31-38 ATS). Tip-off is at 8 PM ET on ESPN; the Wizards lead Atlanta by five games with less than a month remaining before the playoffs.

Washington is 2-1 SU and ATS against the Hawks this year, but both teams have made moves since the last time they met. The Wizards now have Bogan Bogdanovich and Brandon Jennings, while Atlanta added Ersan Ilyasova at the trade deadline.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Entertainment : Simone Biles and Everyone Else at DWTS 24

Season 24 of Dancing with the Stars premieres this Monday night (8 PM ET, ABC), and to almost no one’s surprise, US Olympic gymnast Simone Biles is the favorite at +150. But she’ll have some professional competition in the form of Heather Morris (+500), a triple-threat entertainer who was in the cast of Glee.

Biles is the next in a long line of athletes who have performed on DWTS, and while athletes aren’t winning the competition as often as they used to, the Season 23 champion was also a gold-winning US gymnast: Laurie Hernandez, who opened as the +250 favorite last September. Biles won four gold medals at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio, and carried the flag for Team USA during the closing ceremonies.

Morris may not be quite as famous as Biles, but she’s got the chops, and the people that know her fit right into the DWTS core demographic. The 30-year-old Californian has been dancing since she was nine, and spent time as a back-up dancer for Beyoncé before appearing on Glee. Former US figure skater Nancy Kerrigan (+1000) will also bring some dancing skills to the table for Season 24.

simone biles dancing with the stars

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Entertainment Odds: Biles vs. Morris at DWTS 24

Gold-winning US gymnast Simone Biles is the +150 favorite to win Season 24 of Dancing with the Stars, beginning this Monday at 8 PM ET on ABC. But waiting in the wings is Heather Morris (+500), a former professional dancer who appeared in the cast of Glee.

Biles and Morris could get a run for their money from Nancy Kerrigan (+1000), the former US figure skater who also appeared on the 2006 reality show Skating with Celebrities. Other top contenders include veteran entertainer Charo and model/bull rider Bonner Bolton, both at +900.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

NHL : Blackhawks Visit Ottawa on Thursday

The Chicago Blackhawks fly into the nation’s capital to take on the red-hot Ottawa Senators (39-22-6 SU, 37-30 ATS) on Thursday (7:30 PM ET on TSN5). The Sens are playing their best hockey of the season: they’re unbeaten in March, and have a 12-4 record over their past 16 games. That strong play has gotten them to within two points of first place in the Atlantic Division with two games in hand over the Montreal Canadiens. After being named the third star of the week in the NHL, captain Erik Karlsson (13 goals, 49 assists) has produced yet another tremendous offensive season for Ottawa; he has six points (2 goals, 4 assists) over his past four games and leads all NHL defenseman in assists.

The Chicago Blackhawks (43-20-5 SU, 32-36 ATS) are securely in second place in the Western Conference’s Central Division. They’re 8-2-0 over their last 10 games, and are positioning themselves for yet another playoff run this spring. Reigning NHL MVP, Patrick Kane (30 goals, 43 assists), has continued his scoring ways in 2016-17; he currently sits second in league scoring with 73 points – only two behind league-leading Connor McDavid. Both teams will be looking to finetune for the playoffs.

NHL : Blackhawks Senators

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NHL Odds: Battle of Surging Teams Face Off in Ottawa

The Ottawa Senators (39-22-6) are sitting pretty with 15 games left to play in their season. They’re playing their best hockey of the season and will look to keep it up against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday (7:30 PM ET on TSN5). The Sens have gotten within two points of first place in the Atlantic Division, with two games in hand over the Montreal Canadiens.

The Chicago Blackhawks (43-20-5) have also been racking up the wins of late, going 8-2 over their past 10 games. Goaltender Corey Crawford (2.54 goals against average, .919 save percentage) has proven to be a reliable backstop for a Blackhawks team that scores an average of 2.96 goals per game.

NHL : Predators Clinging to Playoff Life Versus Capitals

Teams are rounding the turn in the NHL regular season, and the Nashville Predators are scrambling for playoff position after losing their first four games in March. They’ll need an inspired performance this Thursday night (7 PM ET) when they visit the best team in the league, the Washington Capitals.

The Predators have taken a step back in their third season under head coach Peter Laviolette. Their puck possession stats are decent, but Pekka Rinne (.915 save percentage) has been fair-to-middling between the pipes, making the OVER a solid pick in the Music City this year. Nashville did make a nice move at the trade deadline by acquiring winger PA Parenteau (13 goals, 14 assists) from the New Jersey Devils, sending back a sixth-round draft pick in return.

That’s a drop in the bucket compared to Washington’s mega-deal for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (11 goals, 35 assists). But Shattenkirk earned a two-game suspension over the weekend for a charging penalty; Thursday should be his first game back. Winger Andre Burakovsky (11 goals, 18 assists) remains out while he recovers from a hand injury. He isn’t due to return until late March.

NHL : Predators Clinging to Playoff Life Versus Capitals

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NHL Odds: Cup-Favored Caps Host Predators

The Washington Capitals are still the +475 favorites to win the Stanley Cup, but after losing four straight games, they could use a shot in the arm this Thursday (7 PM ET) when they host the Nashville Predators.

Kevin Shattenkirk (11 goals, 35 assists) fits the bill. The former All-Star defenseman arrived in Washington at the trade deadline, but Shattenkirk was suspended for two games after picking up a charging penalty. Thursday will be his first day of eligibility. In his six games with the Caps, Shattenkirk has four assists and four blocked shots.