Patrik Laine will miss 2-4 weeks for the Columbus Blue Jackets after he strained a triceps muscle during practice. That’s just the latest insult dealt to the league’s last-place team, which has dealt with injuries since the season began. The team has already lost 454 man-games to injury, and this will be Laine’s third injury that has cost him extended time. He had elbow and ankle injuries last fall that also kept him out. Even with all of the missed games, the Finnish forward is second on the team with 52 points in 55 games played. The team has also been without defenseman Zach Werenski since November (separated shoulder, torn labrum). Forward Sean Kuraly just went on injured reserve with a left oblique muscle strain that will keep him on the shelf for the remainder of the season. The Blue Jackets welcome the New York Islanders on Friday night in one of our top two NHL betting picks for this weekend.
NHL News: Top Bets for the Weekend
N.Y. Islanders (-1.5) at Columbus Blue Jackets (O/U 6.5)
Friday, March 24 – 7:00 pm ET | New York (37-27-8) heads to Ohio riding a three-game winning streak after routing the Toronto Maple Leafs, 7-2, at home. Cal Clutterbuck had two goals and an assist in a game that got out of hand in the third, as the Islanders turned a 3-1 game into a laugher. The Islanders are 9-3-1 in their last 13 games and have the first wild card in the Eastern Conference, two points ahead of Pittsburgh and three points ahead of Florida. In the win over Toronto, Ilya Sorokin stopped 25 shots, giving him a 2.36 GAA and a .925 save percentage on the season. He has a 4-0-1 career record against Columbus, with a .932 save percentage and a 1.79 GAA. If the Isles go with Semyon Varlamov in net, he has a 9-5-2 record against the Blue Jackets with a .935 save percentage and a 2.26 GAA. If you like the Islanders, you see them continuing their offensive onslaught and taking advantage of the latest Columbus injury.
Columbus (22-41-7) just came back from a 2-3-0 road trip, winning their most recent game in Washington by a 7-6 score in overtime. Jack Roslovic scored his ninth goal of the season in overtime, as the Blue Jackets came back from two different two-goal deficits to force the overtime, tying the game with 47 seconds left in regulation, as Boone Jenner lit the lamp for the 24th time on the season. Daniil Tarasov had 31 saves in the game, but it will either be Michael Hutchinson (2-2-1, 4.17 GAA, .875 save percentage) or Elvis Merzlikins (7-17-2, 4.10 GAA, .880 save percentage) in net. Either way, it looks like lots of scoring for the visitors. Islanders to win and cover.
New Jersey Devils (-1.5) at Buffalo Sabres (O/U 7)
Friday, March 24 – 7:00 pm ET | New Jersey (45-18-8) is in second place in the Metropolitan Division, as their offense has been cooking, producing 3.45 goals per game. The top scorers have been Jack Hughes, Jesper Bratt and Nico Hischier, who have combined for 97 goals and 115 assists. Defenseman Dougie Hamilton has jumped into the attack as well, contributing 18 goals and 48 assists. The defense has been solid, permitting 2.66 goals per game and just four goals in the last two games. Vitek Vanecek has been more than serviceable in net, with a .909 save percentage and a 2.49 GAA.
Buffalo (33-31-6) has gotten plenty of offense, scoring 3.57 goals per game. Target Thompson, Alex Tuch and Jeff Skinner have combined for 103 goals and 118 assists, but the Sabres are still riding a four-game losing streak. The defense has been the problem, permitting 3.73 goals per game – including 24 in just the last four contests. Starting goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen has just an .890 save percentage and a 3.62 GAA. Those numbers will not get the Sabres into the last wild card. New Jersey to win and cover.
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