Happy Friday hockey fans, the regular season is nearly halfway in the books and we have the All-Star Game on tap next weekend. Before we get to the festivities in Las Vegas, we have a strong Friday slate of NHL games on the docket.
In one of those contests, the New York Rangers will be hosting the Minnesota Wild and a lot of the buzz surrounding this game will be what is happening prior to the puck being dropped. On Friday, the Rangers will retire longtime goaltender Henrik Lundqvist's No. 30 and rise it to the rafters at Madison Square Garden.
It seems like a foregone conclusion that the crowd will be in an absolute frenzy when Lundqvist has his moment in the sun. Lundqvist goes down as one of the most heralded goaltenders in Rangers history and will always be a beloved figure at MSG. It'll also be special because Lundqvist's friend and former teammate, Wild forward Mats Zuccarello, will be able to be in attendance for the special ceremony.
This is easily my favorite game on Friday's schedule and it's not all because of Lundqvist being honored. I have a pick from this one along with two others that should win us some money. Let's dive into the picks!
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
🏒 Wild vs. Rangers, 8 p.m. | TV: NHL Network
The Pick: Rangers (+130): As I said, I expect the crowd to be roaring after Lundqvist gets his jersey lifted to the rafters. On top of that added juice, the Rangers have played phenomenal hockey at home as they're 13-3 over their last 16 games at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers are coming off of a 5-3 loss on Thursday against the Blue Jackets, but the team had backup goaltender Alexandar Georgiev in net for that one. Vezina Trophy frontrunner Igor Shesterkin should be back between the pipes and that's great news. Coming into Friday, Shesterkin leads the NHL with a .937 save percentage and ranks second with a 2.07 goals-against-average. Over Shesterkin's last six home starts, he's surrendered just nine goals and yielded one goal or fewer in three of those contests.
Now the Wild are winners of their last three games, but those victories came against the Blackhawks (twice) and the Canadiens. Both the Blackhawks and Canadiens are currently both at the bottom of their respective divisions. Even with a talented offense like the Wild possess, I'm more than happy trusting Shesterkin to keep their scoring to a minimum and siding with the home underdog in this spot.
Key Trend: The Rangers are 13-3 in their last 16 home games
💰 More NHL picks
🏒 Avalanche vs. Blackhawks, 8:30 p.m. | TV: NHL.tv
The Pick: Avalanche (-190): As I mentioned with my Rangers pick, these Blackhawks certainly aren't the same Blackhawks that we saw win multiple Stanley Cups in the 2010s. In fact, the Blackhawks are averaging just 2.4 goals-per-game, which is 29th in the league. Chicago has also dropped four of its last five games and only scored a grand total of six goals during that stretch. To make matters worse, the Blackhawks will also be without captain Jonathan Toews, who was placed in concussion protocol on Friday.
The Avalanche also are dealing with a very important injury. Colorado will be without Nathan MacKinnon for the foreseeable future after he suffered a facial fracture and a concussion following a hit from Bruins forward Taylor Hall during Wednesday's game.
Still, the Avalanche have plenty of scoring depth in the form of Nazem Kadri, Mikko Rantanen, and Cale Makar. In fact, Kadri has been lighting the league on fire this season as he's recorded 55 points, which is good for fifth in the entire NHL. I'm still very comfortable taking the Avalanche to win on the road even if they are down some of their star power.
Key Trend: The Avalanche are 4-1 in their last five games as a road favorite
🏒 Capitals vs. Stars, 9 p.m. | TV: NHL.tv
The Pick: Over 5.5 goals (-120): These are two teams that have been heading in very different directions as of late. The Stars have won four consecutive games and have outscored their opponents 8-2 in their last two contests. Meanwhile, the Capitals have dropped three of their last four games and have only mustered three goals over their last three games.
I have no problem fading the Capitals right now, but I'm actually taking the over in this spot. Friday's starting goaltenders are going to be Braden Holtby for the Stars and Vitek Vanecek for the Capitals. Both Holtby and Vanecek have been far from brick walls as of late. Holtby has surrendered four goals in two of his last three games and one of those was against the lowly Sabres. On the other hand, Vanecek has given up at least three goals in three of his last six starts.
In the last nine meetings between these two teams, the over is 7-2 in those games. I expect there to be plenty of goals to go around in this one and we shouldn't have any problem clearing this number.
Key Trend: The over is 6-1-1 in the Stars' last eight games as a favorite