Friday's NHL Picks

Our team of writers and handicappers hand out their hockey picks and predictions for Friday, January 16.

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Philadelphia Flyers at Florida Panthers, 7:35PM ET

Having five straight off days usually provides a welcome rest for any team. The way the Florida Panthers have played lately, they may have considered declining the time off.

The suddenly potent Panthers seek a season-high fourth straight win Friday night when they face the Philadelphia Flyers for the first time in 2008-09.

Hoping to avoid an eighth straight season without a playoff berth, the Panthers (20-16-6) hired first-year NHL coach Peter DeBoer on June 13.

While there are still three months left in the regular season, DeBoer deserves early coach of the year consideration for keeping a team without any stars in the playoff race despite the offseason trade of captain and leading scorer Olli Jokinen to Phoenix. The Panthers are tied with Pittsburgh for ninth in the Eastern Conference, one point behind Carolina.

Since losing four straight late last month, Florida has gone 4-0-1 in its last five games, matching a season high with three consecutive wins. The Panthers headed into their scheduled five-day break by scoring five third-period goals en route to an 8-4 victory over visiting Atlanta on Saturday.

Ville Peltonen scored twice in that outburst, while Radek Dvorak finished with a goal and two assists.

Florida has scored 27 times during the current 4-0-1 stretch. The line of Gregory Campbell, Dvorak and Peltonen has been at the forefront of the surge, totaling nine goals and 18 points in the last five contests.

NBA Free Pick: Florida  View Game Matchup | Best Line: -120 Sportsbook.com

New York Rangers at Chicago Blackhawks, 8:35PM ET

Containing opponents' scoring chances has been key to the Blackhawks' overall success this season - particularly at home.

But as Chicago seeks to continue that trend Friday, they may have to do it without key defenseman Duncan Keith as they conclude a three-game homestand against the New York Rangers.

Chicago (24-10-7) sits second in the Central Division and fourth in the Western Conference, thanks in part to a defense that is among the best in the league, holding opponents 2.5 goals per game. The team has been even stingier at home, limiting visitors to 2.3 per contest.

A defeat to West-leading San Jose on Nov. 16 stands as the Blackhawks' only home regulation loss this season. Since then, they have held a 33-9 scoring advantage in winning eight straight at the United Center and have allowed no more than three goals in any of those outings.

Despite falling to Detroit at Wrigley Field in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1, Chicago is 14-2-4 as a host, taking the first two contests of this homestand.

After Sunday's 3-1 win over Nashville, the Blackhawks topped Buffalo 4-1 on Wednesday to improve to 13-4-0 overall since Dec. 7. They killed off all seven penalties, and held the Sabres to one shot in nearly eight minutes of short-handed play in the second period while holding a two-goal lead.

NBA Free Pick: New York View Game Matchup | Best Line: +150 Sportsbook.com

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Posted: 1/16/09 2:01AM ET

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