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NHL Thursday best bets: Flames to heat up vs. Canadiens

Gerry Thomas / National Hockey League / Getty

We're heading for a jam-packed night of hockey as 11 games are scheduled Thursday.

Let's waste no time in getting to our best bets.

Golden Knights (+100) @ Penguins (-120)

The Golden Knights are a tier above the Penguins, but they both play similar styles of hockey. They try to grind out their opponents down low, create chances from the cycle, and play compact defense without the puck. The pace of the games tends to be relatively low as a result.

Over the last 10 games, for example, the Golden Knights and Penguins both rank in the bottom half of the league at generating expected goals and in the top half of the league at preventing them. Neither side trades chances.

On paper, Kris Letang's absence seems like it could be a big concern to the total. I don't think it is.

Letang has really struggled defensively this season. In fact, the Penguins have allowed shots, chances, and high-danger opportunities at a higher rate with Letang on the ice than any other regular defenseman.

Where they may miss him most is on the power play. It hasn't exactly been firing on all cylinders this year but, over the last two-plus seasons, Letang leads all Penguins in primary assists. He's their main distributor on the man advantage and losing him takes a bite out of Pittsburgh's attack.

The goaltending matchup looks good. Logan Thompson (.921 save percentage) and Tristan Jarry (.914 save percentage) are expected to start, and both have posted SV%s well above the league average. There are many reasons to like the under in this game.

Bet: Under 6.5 (-125)

Canadiens (+220) @ Flames (-270)

The road has been rocky for the Flames this season, but they appear to be righting the ship.

Calgary has posted a 5-3-1 record over its last nine games, with all four losses coming on the road to strong teams (Penguins, Lightning, Hurricanes, Capitals).

The Flames returned home from a lengthy road trip Tuesday and made a statement, picking up a convincing 6-2 win over the Panthers.

I expect the Flames to pick up where they left off when they face the Canadiens. While the Habs have hung in there record-wise, they're still not a very good team; and when they lose, they really lose.

Of Montreal's 11 defeats this season, 10 of them have been by at least two goals.

The Flames have dominated the run of play at home this year, controlling better than 54% of the high-danger looks at five-on-five. That's not great news for the Canadiens, who sit just above 40%.

I think the Flames will be on the front foot for a lot of this game. With the Canadiens' goaltending coming back down to earth, I don't see them hanging around.

Bet: Flames -1.5 (-115)

Todd Cordell is a sports betting writer at theScore. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ToddCordell.

NHL Thursday best bets: Flames to heat up vs. Canadiens
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