Welcome back to another day of NHL Predictions. Each day, we will take a look at the games that are happening and give our predictions for each one. This is the second of three sets of predictions for Thursday, April 8th. Be sure to check out out the early and late predictions as well. In addition, we also offer a featured game of the day, which is a game that we think is must-watch TV. The Winnipeg Jets vs Montreal Canadiens matchup is our featured game.
NHL Predictions Featuring Winnipeg Jets vs Montreal Canadiens
Florida Panthers vs Carolina Hurricanes
Head-to-Head: Panthers 1 – 4 Hurricanes
The top two teams in the Central division square off for the second time in three nights. The Florida Panthers (26-10-4) lead by a single point over the Hurricanes, but have played two more games. There is no room for error with just 16 games remaining in their season. The Panthers were winners of six straight games before losing to Carolina 5-2 on Tuesday. They seem to be the big cat’s kryptonite, as they have lost four of five meetings this season. Giving up four unanswered goals in the third period of that contest will have coach Joel Quenneville steaming.
The Carolina Hurricanes (26-9-3) have welcomed back goalie Petr Mrazek. He has played the past two games after being out since January 30th with an injured thumb that required surgery. He won both of those starts stopping 62 of 64 shots in the process. Both James Reimer and Alex Nedeljkovic played very well in his absence. It will be interesting to see how this “glove triangle” plays out moving forward. Winners of six of the last eight the Hurricanes will look to take over the division lead in their last home game vs the Panthers.
Prediction: 3-1 Hurricanes
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Columbus Blue Jackets
Head-to-Head: Lightning 2 – 3 Blue Jackets
It is a bit of a surprise to see the Tampa Bay Lightning (26-11-2) sitting third in the Central division. Losers of five of the last seven games they have struggled to find the back of the net, with just 15 goals over that span. Team leading scorer and perennial Norris trophy candidate Victor Hedman also had his issues over this stretch. He has just three points and is an uncharacteristic minus seven in the last seven. With the Hurricanes and Panthers playing such great hockey right now, they will need to find answers lightning fast.
The Columbus Blue Jackets (15-18-8) won just their second game in the last nine on Tuesday, a 4-2 win vs the Lightning. Their other win was a 3-1 win vs the Lightning on March 30th. A very unusual pattern of winning, to say the least. Six points out of the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division, this game has massive implications. With the NHL Trade Deadline just four days away, decisions on pending free agents need to be made. Defenceman David Savard sits high on most trade bait boards and forward Nick Foligno would be a welcome addition to most contenders. Can these Blue Jackets continue their mastery of Tampa Bay?
Prediction: 4-2 Lightning
Winnipeg Jets vs Montreal Canadiens
Head-to-Head: Jets 4 – 2 Canadiens
The Winnipeg Jets (23-13-3) travel to Montreal for a crucial two-game series starting tonight. The Jets are third in the North Division, one point back of the Edmonton Oilers. They are six points in front of the Canadiens but have played three more games. A real important set of games, no doubt. Winnipeg has played just two games in April, due to the Vancouver Canucks COVID situation. It would be a welcome break with a five-game road trip starting tonight. They will be without team captain Blake Wheeler who left Monday’s game against the Ottawa Senators. Wheeler took an elbow in the head from Ottawa Senator forward Brady Tkachuk and is suspected to have a concussion.
The Montreal Canadiens (17-10-9) are not without their own key injuries. Carey Price is questionable for this series with a lower-body injury. Jake Allen played last night in their 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. We could see Charlie Lindgren get his first start of the year and just the 25th of his career if either goalie is unable to go. However, Dominique Ducharme said it is likely Allen would start both games. The Habs also placed forward Brendan Gallagher on long-term injured reserve yesterday. Gallagher fractured his thumb on April 4th. Certainly not an ideal situation coming into such a crucial game and having played last night.
Prediction: 3-2 Jets