The Toronto Maple Leafs don’t visit the Chicago Blackhawks often enough to deduce any betting trends, but Auston Matthews and Co. are solid in the front end of back-to-back games.
The Blackhawks, led by right wing Patrick Kane, are a -110 moneyline favorite and the Maple Leafs are a small +100 underdog with a 6.0-goal total at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com on Wednesday night.
Each team has been in a rut for much of January and would like to pick up all four possible points from back-to-back games just before the NHL all-star break. The Maple Leafs are just 1-5 (with three losses in extra time) over their last six games, but coach Mike Babcock’s club is 9-1 in their last 10 games when they were also scheduled to play the following day.
The Blackhawks are 0-3 in their last three home games and are also 5-5 in their last 10 games when they were also scheduled to play the following day (Toronto visits the Dallas Stars on Thursday, while Chicago visits the Detroit Red Wings.)
The Leafs have not won at the United Center since February 12, 2003, but this is only their eighth game in the Windy City in the last 14 seasons.
The Maple Leafs are 26-18-5, but a 3-5-2 record over their last 10 games has led Babcock to shake up his forward lines. Two-way center Nazem Kadri will be flanked by left wing Patrick Marleau and right wing Mitchell Marner to complement the Matthews-Zach Hyman-William Nylander first line.
Toronto is a solid 13-10-3 on the road, but that’s balanced out by both a troubling trend – try a 3-7 record over their last 10 road games against Central Division teams – and an injury situation, since unpredictable Jake Gardiner has to replace reliable Morgan Rielly (arm) on the first defense pairing.
Defensive lapses cost Toronto during its 4-2 loss against the Colorado Avalanche on Monday, but it had a practice day in between to work on operating without Rielly.
Toronto goalie Frederik Andersen is 2-2-3 with a 2.74 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in seven career games against Chicago.
The Blackhawks are 22-19-6, but are sagging of late as evidenced by their 4-6 record in their last 10 games, according to the OddsShark NHL Database, which includes being outscored 13-3 in their last three defeats. Kane remains a point-per-game scorer despite a constant churn of linemates (for now, it’s center Nick Schmaltz and left wing Patrick Sharp).
Bettors will have to make a pick on whether the Blackhawks remain mired in their offensive slump (six goals in five games) or experience a breakout from the likes of the Jonathan Toews-Brandon Saad-Anthony Duclair line against Toronto’s defense.
Chicago, which is 2-5 in its last seven home games against Eastern Conference teams, has yet to give a timeline on when No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford (upper body injury) will return. The start in goal is likely to go to Jeff Glass, a long-time minor leaguer who has never faced Toronto. He is 3-3-1 with a 3.17 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.
The total has gone over in both five of the Maple Leafs’ last seven road games and their last three road games against Western Conference teams. The total has gone under in eight of the Blackhawks’ last 10 home games.