NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Rangers vs. Lightning (December 29)

NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Rangers vs. Lightning (December 29) article feature image

Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Igor Shesterkin (Rangers)

  • The Lightning are short home favorites on Thursday night against the Rangers.
  • The Rangers will have star Igor Shesterkin in net, but it remains to be seen whom the Lightning will counter with as their netminder.
  • Nicholas Martin breaks down the matchup and shares his best bet below.

Rangers vs. Lightning Odds

Rangers Odds+114
Lightning Odds-137
Over/Under6 (+104 / -128)
Time7 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

The Tampa Bay Lightning will host the New YorkRangers Thursday night for a rematch of last year's Eastern Conference Final, which the Lightning ultimately won in six games.

Both sides have displayed elite form recently, as New York has gone 8-2-0 over its last 10 outings, while the Lightning enter having won seven of the last 10.

Find a preview and prediction for Rangers vs. Lightning below.

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Rangers Trending Up

Since a humiliating 5-2 loss at home to the Chicago Blackhawks, the Rangers have snapped into much better form as they have clearly starting to round out their overall team game.

Since that defeat, New York has posted an 8-2-0 record with a stellar Goal Differential of +16. Its 50.87 Expected Goals For Percentage in those 10 games is nothing to write home about, but as we have seen for over a full year now, this roster can manage elite results with middling control of the overall play.

The Rangers could continue to trend upwards because they have achieved this level of success despite a 17th-ranked power play with a 21.9% Success Rate.

The Rangers power play clicked at a fourth-best rate a season ago, and all of the personnel which helped it achieve such success last season remains in place. Adam Fox is one of the best power play quarterbacks in the league, Mika Zibanejad offers one of the more lethal one-timers, and Artemi Panarin is elite at passing through seams and can finish himself if offered too much space.

New York's penalty kill has succeeded 82.3% of the time, which is the seventh-best mark league wide.

Those two strengths offer some key reasoning on how the Rangers could steal this game despite holding somewhat less of the play at even strength.

The greatest argument as to why New York may steal this game comes in the form of its Vezina-winning netminder, Igor Shesterkin. He has played to a +7.9 GSAx rating this season with a .915 save percentage in 27 games played.

Who Will the Lightning Start in Net?

Over the last 10 games Tampa has managed a 7-3-0 record, with a steady 51.75% Expected Goals For rating.

Similar to New York, Tampa always projects to hold far above average special teams play and has seen its lethal powerplay unit click 23.9% of the time thus far.

Nikita Kucherov is the greatest reason why and has generated a ridiculous 50 points in just 33 games this season. Kucherov is one of the most brilliant passers in the entire league and features an underrated one-timer himself.

Andrei Vasilevskiy has been utterly tremendous yet again in goal for the Lightning and owns a +12.1 Goals Saved Above Expected rating with a .918 save percentage in 24 appearances this season.

Vasilevskiy started last night versus Montreal, so it is highly possible the Lightning will not go back-to-back with their star netminder–and therefore would be lacking what is normally their greatest advantage.

For a normal contest, I would say with confidence that backup Brian Elliott would start in this back-to-back spot, but perhaps Jon Cooper will go back to his top option considering this matchup. Confirmation of the Lightning starter should come after their morning skate.

Rangers vs. Lightning Pick

This rematch of last year's Eastern Conference Final will likely be hotly contested and could be a low-scoring, marginal affair. In that type of NHL contest, it's always significantly better to be holding a ticket of the side with the longer number, which is the New York Rangers in this spot.

New York is finding ways to collect two points in the vast majority of its recent contests, and the combination of a spectacular powerplay and holding arguably the best goaltender alive make it a very formidable underdog.

Tampa Bay will likely carry slightly more of the play in this matchup, but New York has continually proven the ability to make up for below-average control of the play at even strength.

Should Vasilevskiy make this start for Tampa, +115 is still a decent price to back New York, but in the event Tampa Bay announces Brian Elliott will start, +115 becomes tremendous value.

Pick: New York Rangers Moneyline +115

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