Welcome back to NHL Predictions! Each day, the Last Word on Hockey team will break down every game and give our NHL predictions for each game. There are three games on the early NHL slate for Tuesday, February 23rd. Be sure to look for our late NHL predictions for today.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals
Head-to-Head: Penguins 3-1 Capitals
It’s another chapter of the Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin rivalry in the District of Columbia tonight. The Pens did win the first three meetings of the season, but two of them came via overtime or the shootout. Tristan Jarry got the win for Pittsburgh in their last game against the New York Islanders on Saturday, so he’s likely to start. Crosby has been leading the way in goals (six) and assists (nine). The Pens have won four of their last five with that loss coming to the Capitals on Feb. 16.
Washington did get a 3-1 win in their last meeting with the Penguins, thanks to a 26-save effort from Vitek Vanecek and two assists by Richard Panik. The Capitals have won three of four, but Vanecek was in net for their loss Saturday against the New York Rangers. However, he should be in net again with this being the third game in four nights. Nicklas Backstrom leads in goals (8) and assists (14) for the Capitals. Washington is coming off a hard-fought 4-3 win over the New Jersey Devils on Sunday.
This will be another nip-and-tuck affair with Washington making the season series closer.
Prediction: Capitals win 3-2 in overtime.
Buffalo Sabres vs. New Jersey Devils
Head-to-Head: Sabres 2-1 Devils
Buffalo got loads of bad news Monday with Jake McCabe being ruled out the rest of the season with a knee injury. Rasmus Ristolainen is also dealing with the aftermath of COVID-19. This is on top of Jeff Skinner being scratched for Monday’s loss to the Islanders. However, Sam Reinhart has six points in his last five games, including two in a 3-2 win in the last meeting between the two teams. Carter Hutton will likely get the start since Linus Ullmark played the night before.
New Jersey is coming off two straight losses, but has shown a lot of fight and been a tough out. Andreas Johnsson recorded two points and Aaron Dell stopped 37 shots in the loss to Washington. Miles Wood leads New Jersey in goals with five, but Jack Hughes has 11 points and is playing like a top pick. Mackenzie Blackwood will likely see the start in net and has four of the team’s six wins in goal.
The Sabres power-play is potent, but the defensive issues and Hutton should give the Devils the edge.
Prediction: Devils win 4-2.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Head-to-Head: Blackhawks 2-2 Blue Jackets
These two clubs may be jockeying for one of those four playoff spots in the Central Division and have looked fairly even. Chicago has been a pleasant surprise in a year many thought they’d be down without Jonathan Toews or Kirby Dach. Kevin Lankinen is having a breakout season with a .927 save percentage and 2.43 goals-against-average. Chicago is coming off a 5-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday.
Columbus will roll with Joonas Korpisalo as Elvis Merzlikins will be out due to injury. The Jackets are coming off a weekend split with the Nashville Predators in the Music City. This Blue Jackets team hasn’t been able to find much consistency this season despite Cam Atkinson having a revival season with seven goals. Oliver Bjorkstrand leads in assists with 10.
This series has been competitive and up-and-down. Columbus has the edge thanks to the home ice but needs to avoid Chicago’s stellar power play.
Prediction: Blue Jackets win 2-1 in a shootout.