NHL odds: Chicago hosts tired Tampa Bay

By: David Schwab | Saturday, April 2, 2011

Tampa Bay registered a 4-3 shootout win against Chicago earlier this season.

The Tampa Bay Lighting will go for a season sweep of the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks when the two clubs meet Sunday at United Center. The NHL Network will televise the contest starting at 4 p.m. (PT).

Tampa Bay will be returning to the postseason for the first time since 2007 after clinching a playoff spot with a 2-1 victory over Pittsburgh this past Thursday as a 117 home favorite.

The Lightning are currently in fifth-place in the Eastern Conference with 95 points and could very well face the Penguins in a first-round matchup. The Lightning were 42-24-11 heading into Saturday’s game against Minnesota.

Center Steven Stamkos leads a Tampa Bay offense that is ranked eighth in the league in scoring with an average of 2.91 goals a game. Stamkos has scored 44 goals, followed by Martin St. Louis, who is second in the NHL in total points with 30 goals and 62 assists. Each player has tallied seven game-winning goals this season.

Dwayne Roloson is expected to get the start in goal. He has started 51 of Tampa’s 77 games this season and has a 2.60 GAA and a .914 save percentage. The Lightning are ranked 23rd in the league in goals allowed, yielding an average of 2.92 per game. The defense has been effective against the power play, with an 83.3 percent kill rate.

Chicago still has some work to do to earn a chance to defend its Stanley Cup title. It is clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with 92 points. The Blackhawks have a three-point lead over Calgary and are just four points behind fourth-place Phoenix.

The Hawks are 5-3-2 in their last 10 games and 42-27-8 overall.

Patrick Kane recorded a goal and an assist Friday to lead Chicago to a 4-3 shootout win over Columbus as a 208 road favorite. He is second on the team in total points with 26 goals and 43 assists. Center Jonathan Toews leads the way with 75 points and Patrick Sharp is the leading goal scorer with 34.

Sharp suffered a knee injury on March 20 and is expected to be out until later this month. This will undoubtedly have a negative effect on a Blackhawks’ team that is averaging 3.12 goals per game, which is third-best in the NHL.

Chicago will most likely go with Corey Crawford in goal. He has a 31-16-5 record in 52 starts with a 2.29 GGA and a .912 save percentage. The Blackhawks are allowing 2.69 goals per game and have struggled against the power play this season with one of the worst kill rates (79.3 percent) in the league.

The total has gone ‘over’ in four of Tampa Bay’s last five games and in 42 of 77 games overall. The ‘under’ is 6-1 in Chicago’s last seven games and in 41 of 77 games overall.

The Blackhawks have won three of the last four games in this series, but the Lightning came away with a 4-3 shootout win as a 114 home favorite on March 9 in the lone game this season. The total has gone ‘over’ in three of the last four games.

Fatigue could be a factor for Tampa, which will be playing its fourth game in six days

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