Luongo attempts to give Florida a jolt
A new era of Panthers hockey begins tonight. But can the Blackhawks stand tall and deliver yet another stellar performance at the United Center?
The two teams drop the puck at 8:30 p.m. in the Windy City. Online sports book Bovada.lv gives Joel Quenneville’s crew odds of -135 to prevail on home ice. Conversely, Florida represents a +115 underdog.
Following Sunday’s 3-2 loss at Carolina, the Panthers axed coach Gerald Gallant. General manager Tom Rowe will take over behind the bench for the remainder of the season. Despite stellar goaltending from the seemingly ageless Roberto Luongo, Florida (11-10-1) is currently out of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. Only one skater, center Jonathan Marchessault, boasts more than 15 points.
Offensive concerns certainly don’t plague Chicago. With Patrick Kane making a push for his second straight Hart Memorial Trophy, the Hawks sit atop the Central Division with a 14-6-3 record. This evening, though, they’ll probably be forced to compete without Jonathan Toews. The star captain continues to deal with an upper-body injury.
Considering that Chicago has won six of its past eight at the Madhouse on Madison, we’re not bullish on Rowe’s chances of starting off with a bang. That said, Luongo holds a 16-13-4 career record vs. Quenneville’s troops. Bank on the former Vezina finalist to at least keep things close.
TUESDAY NHL FREE PICK: PANTHERS/BLACKHAWKS UNDER 5 GOALS