Just two games on the Friday night NHL schedule but I like a side play in both of them. We’ll be ramping up our hockey betting in the next couple of weeks and adding totals into the mix.

CAROLINA HURRICANES AT BUFFALO SABRES—OCTOBER 14, 2011 4:35 PM PACIFIC

Both Friday night games involve teams that opened the regular season in Europe and as you’d expect that presents a significant scheduling challenge. Buffalo beat Anaheim and Los Angeles in Europe but haven’t played since—that’s a concern since long layoffs are seldom good for hockey teams. It’s not uncommon to see teams who have too much free time to suffer from ‘rink rust’ when they get back on the ice.

From this perspective, this game is ‘advantage Carolina’ right out of the box. Carolina is 1-2-1 so far this season but they’ve played reasonably well. In my view, they’ll benefit from having more games under their belt and their recent workrate—they’ll enter this contest off a win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday.

The head to head series has been very evenly matched in recent years. The Sabres and ‘canes split four games last season with each team winning once on their opponent’s rink. That form is exactly the same as 2009-2010 when Buffalo and Carolina split four games with each winning one at home and one on the road.

Finally, Carolina is the healthier team at the moment. Buffalo will play without Johan Hecht on Friday night as he recovers from a concussion. This game is a ‘coin flip’ at its essence but with several intangibles favoring Carolina.

Bet Carolina Hurricanes +165 over Buffalo Sabres

SAN JOSE SHARKS AT ANAHEIM DUCKS—OCTOBER 14, 2011 7:05 PM PACIFIC

Both of the principles in the late game on Friday night started the season in Europe. What’s interesting here is that while the Ducks played a pair of games (losing to Buffalo, beating the NY Rangers) the San Jose Sharks played only once in Europe, beating Phoenix 6-3. So while both teams face similar scheduling, travel and momentum issues (both have been idle since October 8) the Sharks could have a greater degree of ‘rink rust’ due to the fact they’ve only played one game. Much of hockey is timing, continuity and rhythm and that’s the sort of thing that can’t be developed during practice sessions.

Furthermore, I’m not convinced that San Jose will be a better team this year than Anaheim. The Sharks have a lot of question marks starting with their goaltending—Antti Niemi may not be the dominating force in net a la Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo that the team had hoped for. Every indication is that he won’t play here anyway—Niemi had a cyst removed from his leg just before the start of training camp and he’s just now getting into game shape. Backup goalie Antero Nittymaki is also sidelined, meaning the most likely option in this game will be Thomas Greiss. Greiss is generally well thought of, but is likely of a backup level goalie in terms of skills.

San Jose will also be without Martin Havlat and could be without Patrick Marleau who has been trying to shake off the flu. Whenever a key player is suffering from the flu it always sends up a red flag for me—obviously these guys spend considerable time in close quarters and even if they’re still in the lineup typically there’s other players who are ‘under the weather’ and less than 100%.

Anaheim will certainly have the edge in goaltending on this night with Jonas Hiller in net and has the reigning league MVP in Corey Perry. The Sharks and Ducks split six games last year and the head to head tally at the Honda Center has also been even in the past couple of years with a 4-4 split in the last eight meetings. This is a case where the game has been priced more on the public perception of the teams involved than anything else—Anaheim is undervalued, San Jose overvalued and I’ll play this game accordingly.

Bet Anaheim Ducks +105 over San Jose Sharks

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