Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday February 2

Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday February 2

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Charlotte - over MassachusettsFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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Massachusetts has six road wins on the season but they will enter this game coming off a huge one-point win at LaSalle on Wednesday night. The Minutemen were able to hold on for a narrow win for the second straight game in conference play, moving to 4-2 towards the top of the league as every team has lost at least twice. This should be a huge game for a Charlotte team that also sits at 4-2. The 49ers were blown out last weekend playing at George Washington, losing 82-54 with a disastrous shooting game. Charlotte has great defensive numbers for the season and with an entire week to prepare for this game the 49ers will be focused. At home Charlotte is 3-0 in conference play including beating LaSalle and Xavier and on the season the 49ers are still undefeated at home at 10-0 S/U. The schedule has not been overly challenging but in home games Charlotte opponents are shooting just 34 percent, including 23 percent from 3-point range. Massachusetts is one of the worst shooting teams in the Atlantic 10 anyway so expecting a great performance in this match-up and in a challenging situation is a reach. One of Charlotte's better players, DeMario Mayfield has been suspended which is a blow to this team but in the short term the pieces are there to still compete well and the focus of the team has to be high after the digression. Massachusetts lost 13-points per game scorer Jesse Morgan two weeks ago to a knee injury so both teams are without their full complement of players. While the Minutemen have won games away from home this season the LaSalle win was by far the highest quality road win against a crop of unimpressive road wins and this situation looks favorable for the 49ers at home.

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ST. JOHN'S (+8) over GeorgetownFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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The Johnnies are playing with monster revenge today after the Hoyas came to their gym earlier this season and laid down a 67-51 whipping. But this is a much different team that the one Georgetown faced a few weeks ago. St. John's comes in on a five game winning streak and have historically played well on this floor, going 8-2 ATS in its last 10 trips. Georgetown has also struggled in this role, going just 3-10 ATS when facing a team it had already beat earlier in the season. This line is a huge overreaction to the first meeting. Take the generous points and watch the Johnnies take this one down to the wire.

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North Carolina State (+1) over MiamiFOR FREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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This just naturally has to be a game where the hot Hurricanes slip up. Miami has been too good, and really, this team isn't as great as their record has shown, so really I think this is a gradual progression of an ACC team not coming through every week. Heck, if Duke and UNC have been able to drop some league games, surely Miami will as well. Plus, it's not like the Wolfpack are a poor team. This is a legit Top 15 N.C. State team led by some quality talent in Raleigh. I think they do themselves some further good with another quality victory at home. They bested in-state rivals the Tar Heels last Saturday, and here is another chance to score a victory over a strong ranked opponent in the 'Canes. Go with the home squad here in this league tussle between ranked squads.

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Akron (-5.5) over OhioFREE SERVICE PLAYS VISIT THESPREAD.COM
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This is about the line I'm expecting. I think the money will come in on Ohio taking the points, and this line should be around 5-6. But I think that the home-court advantage is going to be really important in this matchup of MAC teams. Akron is 10-0 at home this year, and right now they are one of the hottest teams in the country. Ohio has struggled on the road this season, and I think they will again in this situation. This is a really big revenge game for Akron. They lost a heartbreaker in the MAC Championship Game to the Bobcats last March. They are going to want to make up for that one, and I think the Zips will have an extra bounce in their step. This will be one of the best games in this conference all year.

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John Ryan

Eastern Kentucky at SE Missouri St.
Prediction: Under

The simulator shows a high probability that fewer than 140 points will be scored in this game. I fully expect this Ohio Valley Conference tilt will feature far more defensive domination than the line reflects. Eastern Kentucky loves to score and has minimal focus on the defensive end and is one of the dominant reasons this totals line is inflated. SEMS does an excellent job with their team defense and have the personnel to rotate from a 2-3 zone to a 1-2-1 Cavalry type of zone on the fly. They rank 30th in the nation posting a 0.467 opponent assists-FG made ratio. SEMS will be able to make ball movement and distribution far more difficult than against weaker defensive teams. A major key to this game is the simple fact that SEMS is a vastly better rebounding team. This advantage will keep EK offensive to a maximum of one shot possessions. EK ranks 343rd averaging just 26.8 boards per game while SEMST ranks 105th averaging 36.6 boards per game. Take the UNDER.

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Freddy Wills

La Salle vs. George Washington
Play: George Washington 

I like GW here they are 11-5 ATS in their last 16 meetings with La Salle and should have a significant advantage in the paint as they are +8 FTA and +5.2 rebounds per game and are 45th in 2 point % in the country. They also shoot more than 80% of their shots from inside the arch and that is exactly where La Salle struggles defensively ranking 229th in 2 point % defense. George Washington has been playing better of late shooting 54.1% in their last 3 from two and I think it continues today. Their main task will be taking care of the ball and they should roll to victory.

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Bryan Power

Chicago vs. Calgary
Pick: Over

After opening the season with six straight wins, the Blackhawks have dropped a pair of games in shootouts, losing 3-2 at Minnesota and 2-1 last night in Vancouver.  Still having not lost a game in regulation this season, Chicago is favored tonight in Calgary and I expect them to bounce back offensively against a Flames team that just allowed six goals in its most recent contest

The Flames have been kind to me this season.  First I cashed them last Saturday as a 10* against provincial rival Edmonton, earning their first win of the season. After having four days off, they hosted Colorado Thursday and I played the Over.  I won there too as the game ended in a 6-3 final, in favor of the Avs.  There hasn't been a game this season where Calgary hasn't allowed at least three goals. In fact, they have allowed 20 overall despite playing a league-low five games. Opponents are 6 for 18 against them on the power play.

Chicago has gone Under in six straight games.  Look for that to come to an end tonight in Alberta. This was a team that opened the year by scoring 11 times in its first two games.

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SPORTS WAGERS

DEPAUL +6 over Notre Dame

The Irish have fallen out of the national rankings but they remain in a higher class and even without winning the Big East, they're almost a sure bet to participate in this year's tournament. Notre Dame is 17-4 overall, 5-3 in the conference and they're just 1½-games behind Syracuse for the division lead. However, the Irish are in a horrible spot here with Syracuse up next on Monday in South Bend. That game is without question Notre Dame's biggest match of the season. A win on Monday punches their ticket to the Big Dance. Youngsters have a way of taking their eyes off the ball in these situations.

DePaul's stock has hit bottom with a 1-6 Big East mark and five straight losses in the conference but this is an efficient offense that ranks 53rd in the country in points per game and they also ranks high in rebounding. The Blue Demons have lost seven straight in this series but in a strong situational spot, they really have a great opportunity to catch the Irish looking ahead to Monday's showdown. Notre Dame has played just three true road games all season and this one is the most unfavorable. Upset possibility.


Arizona State +5 over WASHINGTON

When the line is low or under double digits, rarely will we play the pooch when we don't think they can win outright. In this case, the Sun Devils are more than capable of coming in here and winning straight up. They've offered good value all season long, as their 10-3 record vs the number can attest to. ASU already has road wins in Texas Tech, Washington State and Oregon State and right now, they're in better form than the Huskies with three straight wins, a 6-2 conference mark and a 17-4 overall record.

The Huskies are just 4-4 in the conference but after a 4-0 start, they've dropped four in a row. Washington has lost as a home favorite to Colorado State, Nevada and Utah this season and suffered a particularly demoralizing home loss to Arizona on Thursday, letting a double-digit lead slip away. They're over-matched in the middle and they've proven that they're not to be trusted as the chalk against quality clubs. In this short turnaround spot, they're once again not to be trusted spotting points.

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SPORTS WAGERS

Edmonton +110 over COLORADO

OT included. Prior to defeating Calgary (1-3-1), perhaps the NHL's least talented squad, the Avalanche scored one goal in three games on their just completed four-game road trip that started in San Jose. Subsequent visits to Western Canada's three NHL cities has been considered the most physically draining trip for years, making this assignment a truly difficult one. One of the most telling signs of a struggling team is their inability to draw penalties. Colorado has drawn just 21 this season, the lowest mark of any team, indicating they are not sustaining any offensive pressure. To give you an idea of how troubling that is, the Blue Jackets have drawn 38 penalties and these Oilers have drawn 35 on this early season.

Edmonton is improving with each passing game. They rallied from a 2-0 deficit at San Jose on Thursday and took that undefeated Sharks team to OT before losing in a shootout. Two of the Oilers three losses this season have come against San Jose. They're a confident group that is gaining steam with points in four of their last five contests. Adding to the Oilers appeal is the steady goaltending of Devan Dubnyk. He's a former #1 round draft pick that is entering his prime at the age of 27 and is now proving his worth. Dubnyk is 5-2-1 with a stingy 1.99 goals-against average versus Colorado and that includes a 4-1 win this season. Expect nothing less here.


TAMPA BAY -114 over N.Y. Rangers

Regulation only. Not sure why the Rangers are getting so much love but once again we'll look to take advantage of their popularity and the appeal that Rick Nash has added to this team. Truth be told, the Rangers were better a year ago. Losing key character players like Brandon Dubinsky, Brandon Prust and John Mitchell has proven to be a big mistake early on and coach John Tortorella is not a patient guy. When things aren't going well, he continues to shuffle his lines, hoping for some magic that just isn't there. To make matters worse, the Rangers are 0-2 on the road this season with just two goals scored and they only have two wins in their past eight games versus the Lightning. Minus the injured Ryan Callahan, the Rangers are in even bigger trouble.

This is Tampa's best team in years. After an easy 8-3 win over Winnipeg last night in which they barely broke a sweat, the Bolts are now 5-0 at home and have scored five goals or more in every game. Tampa has scored seven power-play goals in its last 15 opportunities and they're likely to get plenty more opportunities here against a Rangers team that is doing a lot of running around in their own end. Overshadowed by all the offense has been goaltender Anders Lindback, who has posted a 2.50 goals against average in four straight wins. Frankly, this is a cheap price when you consider home ice advantage and the current plight of the both these clubs. Huge edge in all areas to the host.


Carolina +133 over PHILADELPHIA

OT included. Off since Tuesday and with two wins in seven games, the Flyers went into Washington last night to face the reeling Caps, who were playing their sixth game in nine days. Prior to last night’s game, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette had this to say regarding the team getting some time to practice, “It just felt great to go out there and work on things. Work on power plays, 5-on-3, 4-on-3, forechecks, cycles, D-zone coverage, everything. We just tried to give everyone a refresher.” A lot of good it did as the Flyers promptly went out and lost again. Outside of a 7-1 win over the Panthers, Philadelphia has scored two goals or less in every game. Take away that seven goal outburst and they'd be the lowest scoring team in the NHL, having been outscored 22-9 in all other games. This is a team in peril.

The Hurricanes have played the least amount of the games in the Eastern Conference. With a 3-3 record and not a lot of success over the past few years, this solid bunch remains the NHL's most undervalued squad in the early going. They're coming off a 1-0 win over the Senators last night, a team that was 5-1 prior to last evening’s game. Last weekend, in a home and home series against the Sabres, they outscored Buffalo 9-4 while winning both games. They've quietly won three of four with only loss over that span occurring against Boston in a game that was tied 3-3 late in the third. Carolina is tough, quick and talented from top to bottom and they also have a shut-down defender in Justin Faulk. They'll continue to remain on our radar as long as they keep offering up value. That applies here.

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Re: Free Picks: Service Plays for Saturday February 2

SPORTS WAGERS

NEW YORK -11 over Sacramento

The Knicks went into Sacramento at the end of December as one of the hottest teams in the Association. As a 3-point choice, they lost outright and the Kings celebrated like they won a playoff series. It was an “in-your-face celebration” that New York has stamped in their memories. Now the Kings will play their fifth straight on the road over a seven day span. They have a nine-point loss in Philly, a 29-point loss in Denver and an 18-point loss in Boston preceding this one. The Kings have five wins in 24 road contests and against a revenge minded New York squad, it's likely to get ugly.

The Knicks have been home for three straight, all wins. They have the Pistons and Wizards on deck so there is nothing distracting them from the task at hand. New York's last two wins have come against Orlando and Milwaukee by 16 and 10 points respectively and surely they're not taking a step down in class here. Payback, not for the loss, but for the way the Kings celebrated is in order.

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SPORTS WAGERS

Gleison Tibau -110 over Evan Dunham

As one of the unofficial “gatekeepers” of the lightweight division, Gleison Tibau presents a tough challenge for any fighter looking to move up in the ranks. Known for his wrestling and ground game, Tibau uses his size to overpower his opponents.

Starting his UFC career with four straight victories, Evan Dunham was looked at as a possible contender in the lightweight division before losing three of his past five fights. While Dunham’s record is impressive, he has lost to the better opponents he has faced. Although he is an exciting fighter, we feel he is not ready to defeat an opponent of Tibau’s caliber. He has also shown that he has problems facing solid wrestlers, which is not a good thing when you are matched up against someone like Tibau. In a fight where he is once again the bigger fighter expect Tibau to use his wrestling to grind out a victory.


Frankie Edgar +175 over Jose Aldo

The champion Jose Aldo defends his featherweight title against the former lightweight champion in a dream matchup. Coming off of a controversial loss to Benson Henderson, Frankie Edgar makes his debut in a weight class that many feel he is better suited for. Known for his wrestling, boxing, cardio and resiliency, “The Answer” presents a tough match up for the champion.

Returning from a long layoff due to injury, Aldo is fighting in the octagon for the first time in over a year. Ring rust could be a definite factor and against an opponent like Edgar, that likes to push the pace, it could prove costly for Aldo. Both fighters are evenly matched with Aldo possessing the power advantage. However Edgar has shown that he has the chin to withstand punishment and also has the speed and evasiveness to avoid strikes. If he can withstand Aldo’s leg kicks, look for Edgar to attack from all angles using his boxing and then look to secure takedowns which could be the deciding factor in what should be a close fight. At the price being offered, the value definitely lies with Edgar.

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Jeff Alexander

Phoenix Suns +8.5

The Suns have struggled on the road this season, but I like them to keep this one closer than the oddsmakers think. They match up well with Golden State, which has been evident in the last two meetings which have been decided by 4 points combined. In fact, the Suns have won or lost by fewer than 8.5 points in 15 straight meetings.

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Dave Price

Atlanta Hawks -7

This is a game Atlanta wants badly. You might recall that it was brutally embarrassed by 39 points in Chicago last month. In addition to holding the motivational edge, the Hawk's have the advantage in terms of rest. They have had two days' rest while Chicago just played last night. To make matters worse for the Bulls, they are expected to be without Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich this evening. The home team has held the advantage in this series. It has won 4 of the last 5 meetings with each of the wins coming by double digits. The Hawks defeated the Bulls 92-75 in the season's first meeting in Atlanta. The Bulls are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games when playing without a day of rest. Also, the favorite is 4-0 ATS in the last 4 meetings. Lay the points.

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Joe Duffy

Western Illinois vs. IUPUI
Play: Western Illinois 

We have been fading IUPUI all year as they are ravaged by injuries. They have just seven scholarship players. They did finally beat us last week against their rival Fort Wayne. That snapped a four-game spread skid, but extended their losing streak to eight in a row.

What is especially tough on them is that they lost a heartbreaker in OT, so it is a difficult bounceback game. They have two okay options in Mitchell Patton and Donovan Gibbs, but this team is very thin in talent.

Western Illinois is also off a loss, but to a very good Oakland team that was playing a rare home game. Each of their four previous losses was met with a win and three with a cover in the next game.

IUPUI has had no home court advantage, going 1-5 to the number, while Western is 7-4 and 7-3 against the spread on the road.

Already decimated by injuries and now off a heart-breaking loss, they are no match for the conference leader, especially considering there is almost no significant home road splits.

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Wunderdog

Portland at St. Mary's
Pick: Portland +20

The St. Mary's Gaels used to be the doormat in the West Coast Conference, but over the last few years that has changed dramatically as they now have become the biggest challenger of the strong hold Gonzaga has had on the conference. The Gaels are 18-4 on the season and a perfect 12-0 at home, and have won six straight games. They have not brought their "A" game to these mismatches however, as they are just 1-4 ATS as a chalk of -17 or more on the season. Portland has lost and failed to cover each of their last five, but they should be alive tonight as St. Mary's held them to a season low 38 points at home in their previous meeting. Conference teams favored by -20 or more have failed to an 84-134 ATS mark. Take the points.

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Andrew Lange 

Idaho State at North Dakota
Play: North Dakota

Since 2009, when asked to play back-to-back road games in Big Sky play with only one day of rest, Idaho State is 0-10 SU and 3-7 ATS. Seven of those 10 losses came by more than seven points, tonight’s line against North Dakota. This shouldn’t come as a shock seeing as the Bengals have been Big Sky bottom feeders for quite some time and travel within the league can be brutal. Here they go from Greeley, Colorado (lost to Northern Colorado by 15 on Thursday) to Grand Forks, North Dakota – I can’t confirm but I seriously doubt they chartered a flight but instead like most mid-major schools, took commercial flights sprinkled in with a few hours on a bus. North Dakota isn’t a great team but we’ve seen signs its home court is going to be tough on opposing teams. In mid-January, the (they no longer have a team nickname for PC reasons) rolled off three straight home wins against Montana State, Eastern Washington and Portland State. The closest margin was nine points. The win over Montana State was particularly noteworthy considering MSU beat UNC on a Thursday and in the exact same travel situation as Idaho State lost to UND, 86-73, on Saturday. Some of what I speak of is accounted for in the line, but at -7, we're still in a price range where if North Dakota wins, which I'm confident they will, there is a good chance they’ll cash a ticket.

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Hollywood Sports

Nashville at San Jose
Prediction: Under

San Jose (7-0-0) remains the last remaining unbeaten team in the NHL after their 3-2 victory in the shootout over Edmonton on Thursday. The Sharks have won played 4 straight games Under the Total following a victory. The Under is also 5-1-1 in their last 7 games after allowing two goals or less in their last game. Furthermore, this will be San Jose's sixth straight game at home where they have played 4 straight games Under the Total on their home ice. Nashville (2-2-0-3) enters this game coming off their 2-1 win in a shootout in Los Angeles against the Kings. The Predators have played 5 of their last 6 games Under the Total after scoring two goals or less in their last game. The Under is also 4-1-2 in their last 7 games coming off a victory. Nashville stays on the road for this one -- and they have played 6 straight games Under the Total on the road. Lastly, in the last 8 meetings between these two teams, the Under is 5-2-1. While the Under is listed at 5, these are too strong of team trends to not take your chances with the Under while living with a Push if the final score lands on 5. Take the Under in this one.

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Steve Merril

Bobcats vs. Rockets    
Play: Over

These two teams just met 12 days ago with Houston beating Charlotte 100-94. That game was played at 2:00 pm ET on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; it was a Monday afternoon. That day is notorious for sluggish offensive performances, and we saw that from both teams. The Bobcats and Rockets combined to shoot just 40.6% (63-155) from the field and 36.4% (16-44) from three-point land. Charlotte hasn’t played for two days so the Bobcats should play much better offense than they did in their last two games when they scored just 85 and 78 points. Houston’s defense allows 103 points per game this season so the Bobcats should have success, especially since this game will be played at a fast pace. Houston’s offense is in tremendous form right now. The Rockets have scored a total of 454 points over their last four games while shooting an incredible 49.7% (163-328) from the field. Houston’s offense should have another good game tonight as the Bobcats defense has allowed 100 points per game on 47.3% shooting from the field and 44.4% shooting from three-point land over their last five games. The Rockets are in terrific rhythm as a team and they understand how they need to play in order to have success. “Everybody was running,” said Carlos Delfino. “Everybody got involved. If you move the ball, everybody can find open shots. It makes basketball easy.” We expect both teams to go up and down the court making this a high-scoring game between the Bobcats and Rockets on Saturday night.

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NHL Predictions

Bruins / Maple Leafs Over 5.5

The Bruins won all 6 meetings between these two teams last year. In those games we saw totals of 8, 9, 5, 9, 7, and 8 with the OVER going 5-1. The Bruins have scored 15 goals over their last 4 games, and are coming off a game where they gave up 7 goals against Buffalo. The Leafs have scored 18 goals over their last 5 games for a little over 3 goals per game during that span. They gave up 19 during that span, also putting them a little over 3 goals against per game during those games. The OVER is 25-9-2 in the Bruins last 36 road games. The OVER is 20-7-1 in these two teams last 28 meetings and 4-0 in their last 4 meetings in Toronto. I see no reason why this one won't be a higher scoring game and get over today's total.


Tampa Bay Lightning -109

The Rangers enter tonight's game with a 3-4 record with their last game being a 3-0 loss at home vs Pittsburgh. The Rangers have scored 2 or fewer goals in 4 of their 7 games. Tampa Bay on the other hand is 6-1 on the season and they've been on a very impressive run lately. Tampa Bay scored 8 goals in an 8-3 victory last night at home, and have now scored an average of 5.29 goals per game to easily lead the league in that category. They are also 12th in goals against per game, and their power play is 3rd in the league. The Lightning split their 4 meetings with New York last year, but are 6-2 in their last 8 games vs the Rangers. In my opinion we get a very good price here today on maybe the NHL's hottest team right now.


Detroit Red Wings -128

The Red Wings beat a solid St Louis Blues team at home last night to improve to 4-2-1 on the year. They've won their past two games and 3 of 4. The Blue Jackets have lost 2 straight games and are 2-5-1 on the season. Columbus has scored just 11 goals this year and sit 29th in the NHL with just 1.62 goals per game. The Red Wings already beat the Blue Jackets in Columbus this year, although it was a tight 4-3 shootout victory. The Red Wings went 4-2 against Columbus last year and are 9-4 in their last 13 meetings in Columbus. Detroit has scored 4+ goals in three of their last four games and if they can find the net tonight they should be able to take care of a Blue Jackets team that is struggling to score. Take the Red Wings.


San Jose Sharks -1.5 +195

The Nashville Predators enter this game 2-2-3 on the year, somehow finding ways to get points although they've struggled offensively. The San Jose Sharks on the other hand have had no problems offensively helping them to a 7-0 start to the year. San Jose is ranked 2nd in the league behind Tampa Bay averaging 3.86 goals per game, compared to the Predators who are dead last in the NHL with 1.57 goals per game. The Sharks sit second with just 1.71 goals against per game. The Sharks are 16-7 in their last 23 meetings with Nashville and 20-7-1 in their last 28 home games vs the Preds. Also note that 5 of the Sharks 7 wins have been by 2 or more goals. I like San Jose on the puck line here.

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