By Ian Cameron  () 

Welcome to the weekly installment of my “NHL Games To Watch” betting column for VSIN Point Spread Weekly. I’ll preview some of the marquee NHL games each week taking place between Thursday and Sunday targeting some interesting betting spots and looking for potential value with undervalued sides and totals throughout the season.

Florida Panthers @ Tampa Bay Lightning

Thursday, October 3

7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT

The Florida Panthers have the makings of

a much-improved team with an upgraded defense, the addition of #1 goalie Sergei Bobrovsky and Stanley Cup-winning head coach Joel Quenneville. They take to the ice for their season opener against last year’s Presidents Trophy winners, the Tampa Bay Lightning, which had a historically great regular season but flamed out in disastrous fashion, getting swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Florida has a very strong and deep collection of forwards, which should give them plenty of even-strength and power-play goal scoring production. The defense has been improved and that was an area of weakness last season and, of course, Bobrovsky provides the Panthers with their best starting goaltender in years. Tampa Bay will look to make amends for a record-setting season ending in shambles in a quick and loud thud in the first round of the playoffs. It still has a loaded squad with four strong forward lines all capable of scoring, a depth-laden defense and elite goaltending from Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning should have a collective chip on its shoulder to atone for a shocking first-round playoff exit last season. However, I view this as a regular season where Tampa Bay will be more interested in pacing itself and not going all-out like it did last season, which could lead to some value to bet against them in certain spots. Florida usually plays Tampa Bay tough and I like the Panthers to potentially cash a big dog ticket in this game.

Dallas Stars @

St. Louis Blues

Saturday, October 5

8 pm ET/5 pm PT

This is a rematch of last year’s second-round playoff series between the Dallas Stars and the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. Dallas lost in seven hard-fought games and should be prepped for not only another deep playoff run this season but a chance in this particular spot to knock off the Blues. Dallas has all the components of being a Stanley Cup champion this season. The Stars have a skilled forward group. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn revitalized their careers down the stretch last season after being called out by ownership for lack of production. The addition of Joe Pavelski in the offseason from the San Jose Sharks brings them instant leadership and a phenomenal two-way presence at both ends of the ice. The defense is absolutely staked with an sbundance of burgeoning talent like John Klingberg, Esa Lindell and Meiro Heiskanen. Ben Bishop had his best season of his career between the pipes for Dallas last season and should be strong again if he can stay injury free. St. Louis has the kind of solid squad at both ends of the ice to be competitive again and it certainly went on an incredible run going from worst at one point last season to first and a Stanley Cup but the likelihood of them bringing back that type of magic isn’t something I’m willing to bet on. It’s surely worth noting last year’s Stanley Cup finalists Washington and Vegas got out to a combined 17-23 sluggish start in their first 40 games combined. The physical and emotional grind of going all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in June often takes its toll on those teams to start the following season. St. Louis could be prone to that same kind of slow start to the season coming off a Stanley Cup championship. I’ll be taking a look at backing Dallas in this game on Saturday night.

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