Red Wings Injuries Make Penguins Plus Odds Our Sharp NHL Pick

Jason Lake

Thursday, February 18, 2016 3:46 PM UTC

Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016 3:46 PM UTC

Two very average teams collide this Thursday when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the Detroit Red Wings. Each side opened at –110 on the NHL odds board. Wait, what about home ice?

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NHL Pick: Penguins +120
Best Line Offered: at TheGreek


Jason's 2015-16 record as of Feb. 16: 1-1 ATS (–0.85 units), 0-5 ML (–5.12 units), 0-0-2 Totals (0.00 units)


There's something to be said for being average – especially when your peers are the best in the world. The Detroit Red Wings (29-19-9) and Pittsburgh Penguins (28-19-8) are about as close to average as you can get in the NHL. They'll meet Thursday night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on NBCSN; as we go to press, the first lines for this matchup have gone up on the NHL odds board, and each side is priced at –110. It's a pick 'em, folks.

Wait a second...shouldn't the Penguins be favored in this game? They're the home team, after all, and if we think these two teams are roughly equal in talent, Pittsburgh “should” be priced at around –130. Either there's a nice profit margin to be had here, or there's something else going on we need to know about. Maybe a bit of both. Let's investigate, shall we?


You're Lean, You're Mean
First, the general evaluation. When we say “average” for these guys, we're not kidding. Hockey-Reference has Pittsburgh pegged at +0.02 on the Simple Rating System; that's 0.02 goals per game better than average. Detroit is rated slightly worse at –0.01 SRS. If advanced stats aren't your thing, how about simple goal differential? It's plus-1 for the Penguins and minus-1 for the Red Wings.

Both teams are expected to start their No. 1 netminders in this matchup. Petr Mrazek (.930 save percentage) has already been confirmed for Detroit, as per Left Wing Lock, while Marc-Andre Fleury (.922 SV%) is considered probable for Pittsburgh. Not that back-up Jeff Zatkoff (.923 SV%) would be that much of a downgrade. Hmmmm. Something else must be going on here.


Down Where?
Let's not prolong the suspense any more: Evgeni Malkin (23 goals, 26 assists) is out for the Penguins. He suffered some kind of lower-body injury at the beginning of February and has been in limbo pretty much ever since. Malkin didn't practice on Wednesday, so his chances of playing Thursday look pretty slim. Pittsburgh is 3-2-1 in the six games that he's missed so far.

This does leave Pittsburgh in a bit of a bind at center. Nick Bonino (three goals, 53.3 face-off pecentage) and Eric Fehr (five goals, 44.3 FO%) are both on the injured list, too. But the Penguins still have Sidney Crosby (24 goals, 29 assists) and Matt Cullen (six goals, 55.5 FO%) manning the middle, and rookie call-up Oskar Sundqvist (zero points in six games) isn't really a rookie, having played three years in the top Swedish league before coming to America. The Red Wings have some injuries, too, so let's go ahead and put Pittsburgh in our NHL picks at this reasonable price.

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