Back Stronger Penguins With Your NHL Picks To Take Down Hurricanes

Jason Lake

Tuesday, January 12, 2016 2:14 PM GMT

The Pittsburgh Penguins are a viable NHL pick again now that Marc-Andre Fleury has returned. But they'll have to be on their toes Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes.

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Free NHL Pick: Penguins –112
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

 

Now we're starting to see what the Pittsburgh Penguins are made of. They went through a horrible December slump at 5-7-2, spending half the month without the services of top goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (.928 save percentage), among others, all while trying to adapt to new head coach Mike Sullivan. But 2016 has been very kind to the Penguins; they're back at close to full health, and they're 2-1-1 after four games in January.

So how badly do the Penguins want to beat the Carolina Hurricanes this Tuesday night (7:00 p.m. ET)? On December 19, Carolina came to the CEC and beat Pittsburgh 2-1 to cash in at +130. At press time, our NHL odds board has the Penguins pegged as –115 road faves for the rematch, or –1.5 (+260) on the puck line. There's a total of five goals sitting out there for your consideration, as well.

 

Moms Everywhere Trust Letang
Having someone of Fleury's status between the pipes is always welcome – he's a two-time All-Star playing some of the best hockey of his career. But Pittsburgh (20-16-2) actually got good performances during his absence from backup Jeff Zatkoff (.926 SV%) and AHL call-up Matt Murray (.938 SV%), who made 24 saves in the aforementioned loss to Carolina. Fleury is considered probable to start Tuesday's game for Pittsburgh.

Not available for the Penguins that day: Kris Letang (25 points in 32 games). Also a two-time All-Star, the veteran blueliner was out with an undisclosed upper-body injury, perhaps a concussion. Letang has been on fire since getting back into the lineup, and appears to be much more comfortable playing for Sullivan than he was under Mike Johnston. Sidney Crosby (31 points in 40 games) has also picked up his game of late after shaking off a lower-body injury.

 

Rock You Like an Ex-Whaler
So you might recall our award-slashing article from last week, where we recommended putting the Hurricanes (18-18-6) in your NHL picks versus the Vancouver Canucks. That was an easy call against the puck line, and Carolina made us look good by losing 3-2 as a +1.5 (–300) road dog. Since then: back-to-back wins over the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets. En fuego~!

The Penguins are still near the bottom of the ATS standings at –11.77 betting units as we go to press, but we can't recommend the same play here. Pittsburgh is a considerably stronger team than both the Canucks and the 'Canes; Hockey-Reference has the Pens at –0.02 on the Simple Rating System, compared to –0.34 for Carolina. That makes Pittsburgh a league-average team over the first half of the season. Now that Fleury and Letang are in action, and the players are responding to their new coach, we expect better things from the Penguins during the second half.

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