This article is part of our NHL Picks series.
RotoWire's AJ Scholz takes a deep dive into his favorite bets ahead of Thursday's seven-game slate, including a look at the Moneyline, Puckline, total and player props with odds courtesy of the DraftKings Sportsbook.
Picking the Favorite: The Panthers are coming in at a decent value at -150 and while they are playing the Lightning, which is no doubt a concern, the fact is Tampa Bay is still without either of their preferred netminders in Andrei Vasilevskiy and Brian Elliott who are both in the COVID-`19 protocols. Third-choice backstop Max Lagace gave up four goals on 31 shots against the offensively-challenge Habs on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Panthers are finally healthy, including Alexander Barkov who is back from a four-game stint on the sidelines.
Finding an Underdog: For all the reasons not to utilize the Lightning, the fact that you can get the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions at +125 value makes them a really intriguing play. The netminding situation is a concern but still can ice a high-powered offense that is converting 3.50 goals in December. Outside of Tampa Bay, the Sabres at +180 versus the injury-ravaged Islanders is also in play given the high value and the fact they finally have Alex Tuch in the lineup.
Covering the Puckline
Favorite Team to Cover: It's a tough spot but I actually really like the Habs at +1.5 goals to return +130 value. Montreal is a huge underdog for a reason as it is missing top producers Mike Hoffman, Tyler Toffoli and Artturi Lehkonen in addition to netminder Jake Allen. Having said that, the Canes likely won't have Frederik Andersen, which means Antti Raanta, who is 2-2-1 with a 2.41 GAA in his last five contests, is set to get the start. I wouldn't bet the Habs on the Moneyline despite them being +290 but to lose by just a goal seems like an okay spot to be in.
Best of the Rest: Columbus is 2-7-1 in its last 10 outings while Nashville is 8-2-0, so getting the Predators to cover at +205 seems like top-end value to hit while the iron is hot. Still, this bet is far from a lock when you consider Nashville will be without its leading scorer Roman Josi, though Matt Duchene is back in the lineup, having racked up 13 goals in 27 games this year. With more than 2-to-1 value, it's just hard to pass on the Predators here.
Betting the Total
Taking the Over: When you have two of the league's top-10 offenses squaring off in Florida and Tampa Bay, it's easy to see why the total was set at 6.5. Still, the questionable goaltending as outlined above could lead to a shootout. As such, giving up a little juice at -120 makes plenty of sense in this spot.
Spotting the Under: On the other end of the spectrum, the Sabres v. Islanders matchup is tied for the lowest total at 5.5. You've got a pair of teams that are likely going to be rolling with a handful of minor-league players due to injuries/COVID-19 and are in the bottom 10 of the NHL in goals for this season. Given the two sides' offensive struggles, under 5.65 at -110 is certainly solid but you may want to consider the alternate total and drop down to Under 5 at +170 or even Under 4.5 for +245.
Favorite Player Props
Anytime Goal Scorer: Among all players on Thursday's seven-game slate, the best odds to find the back of the net is Carolina's Sebastian Aho at -105. For nearly even value going up against the wayward Habs, this seems like too good of value to pass on. Alternatively, Mathieu Joseph or Corey Perry could be elevated Tampa Bay's top line. Both are sitting at +350 to score a goal and I would certainly consider taking whichever player lands in that role, which you can check back here closer to puck drop: Tampa Bay Depth Chart
Power-Play Point: Nashville's power play is converting at 24.4 percent which is seventh-best in the NHL right now. Outside of the aforementioned Roman Josi who is unavailable, Matt Duchene sits second on the team in power-play points with four goals and four assists. You can snag him to get just one point with the man advantage for +260.