Florida Panthers (30-27-11) at Columbus Blue Jackets (44-18-6)
|Date & Time||Thursday March 16, 2017, 7:00 PM (EDT)|
The Line: Columbus Blue Jackets -165 / Florida Panthers +149 --- Over/Under: 5.5
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The Florida Panthers look to keep their slim playoff hopes alive as they head into Columbus to take on the Blue Jackets on Thursday night.
The Panthers have played their way out of the Eastern Conference wild card picture over the last week and a half as they are 1-5 in their last six games and have gone from a dark horse in the Atlantic to a team that looks like they are going to short of the postseason, despite a big win over the Maple Leafs on Tuesday. Florida has been decently strong on the road of late as they are 5-2 in their last seven away from home but a losing skid at a very inopportune time could be their demise and with James Reimer still manning the crease in place of the injured Roberto Luongo it looks like the Cats will be on the outside looking in and can thank their early season woes for it. Florida is 1-6 in their last seven Thursday games and will look to buck that trend on the road against a very good Columbus side who has been excellent at home this season.
The Blue Jackets meanwhile have their sights set on top spot in the Eastern Conference and with a win tonight they can move to within a single point of the Capitals for top spot in the division and the East with 14 games left on their schedule. The Jackets have been the surprise team in the NHL this season and while they have had a bit of a regression since their first season surge they are still among the league’s top teams and look like a shoe win to at least qualify for the playoffs this season. Columbus has been well balanced in the offensive zone as guys like Nick Foligno and Cam Atkinson have been brilliant and Sergei Bobrovsky is back to his Vezina trophy level of play and he should be the difference in this one despite the Cats playing for their playoff lives.
The Panthers are 1-5 in their last six overall and winless in their last four against a team with a winning record while the Jackets are 4-1 in their last five against the East and 11-1 in their last 12 when playing on two day’s rest. The price is chalky here but Columbus is the better team with the better goalie and they prove it here on home ice.