Ice picks: Wednesday's best NHL bets

Dec 17, 2008 |
Ice picks: Wednesday's best NHL bets

Files by Associated Press. Picks by staff.

San Jose Sharks at Columbus Blue Jackets (+153, 5.5) odds provided by betED

Few opponents this season have been able to slow down San Jose, which is off to the best 30-game start in NHL history. The Columbus Blue Jackets, winners of four in a row at home, have to be hoping the Sharks will be looking past them Wednesday night.

With a showdown at Detroit looming Thursday, the Sharks will try to maintain their focus when they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Sharks take on a team that's been playing well on home ice of late. Columbus (13-14-3) is coming off a 3-1 loss at Chicago on Sunday, but the Blue Jackets have won their last four at Nationwide Arena, allowing a total of four goals in those games.

Rookie Steve Mason has been in net for all of them, solidifying his hold on the starting job due to Pascal Leclaire's struggles. Mason ranks third in the league with a 1.98 goals-against average.

The problem against the Blackhawks was offense, as the Blue Jackets outshot Chicago 32-31 but were held scoreless for the final 58 minutes.

"I think it's frustrating for everyone to live on this 'we played so well' and still only scored one goal," Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Right now we're living on a fine line and there's not much breathing room."

The Blue Jackets have scored three goals or fewer in each of their last 13 games, going 4-for-55 (7.3 percent) on the power play over that span. On the season, they've scored an NHL-worst 10.1 percent of the time with the man advantage.

Columbus needs more production from its top scorers, especially Rick Nash. The forward leads the team with 13 goals and 25 points, but hasn't scored in his last five games, totaling one assist over that span.

His last goal came in a 3-2 loss at San Jose on Dec. 4 - the Blue Jackets' fifth straight against the Sharks.

Pick: San Jose -163

Edmonton Oilers at Vancouver Canucks (-155, 5.5) odds provided by betED

With captain Roberto Luongo still week-to-week with a groin injury, Curtis Sanford is expected to start this contest for Vancouver, which is 5-4-1 without Luongo.

Sanford is 4-4-0 with a 2.87 goals-against average this season and 5-1-1 with a 2.21 GAA lifetime versus the Oilers.

Though Edmonton (14-13-2) evened the season series with Vancouver in the teams' last meeting, the Oilers must find a way to rebound from a 9-2 home loss to Chicago on Tuesday.

"We have to somehow get our energy back up and try to duplicate the game we had against Vancouver our last game at home," captain Ethan Moreau said. "There is going to be a lot of questions going into (Wednesday) because of our effort (Tuesday), but we have an opportunity to play well. That's how we'll be evaluated, by how we respond."

Mathieu Garon allowed five goals and was replaced by Dwayne Roloson, who gave up four for Edmonton, which has lost two of three since winning three in a row.

Roloson, 6-4-2 with a 2.74 GAA on the season, could get the start Wednesday after recording 23 saves against the Canucks on Saturday for his first shutout of the season.

Shawn Horcoff scored against Chicago giving him three goals and eight assists in his last nine games.

Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner and Robert Nilsson each scored for the Oilers against the Canucks over the weekend.

Pick: Edmonton +145

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