Jeff Hochman of JH-Sportsline is a four-time documented NHL Handicapping Champion. Jeff has just released his 2012-13 NHL Eastern Conference Spotlight team along with his Spotlight Game. Sign up for Jeff's NHL Full-Season Package at this website for a huge discount due to the shortened season.
2012-13 NHL Eastern Conference Spotlight Team
(2011-12 record: 33-33-16, 82 points)
The Hurricanes made a splash this off-season when they acquired Pittsburgh Penguins’ forward Jordan Staal in a draft day blockbuster trade to play along side his brother. Along with the Staal brothers (Eric & Jordan), players like Alexander Semin and Jeff Skinner will help make Carolina a potential Top 5 offensive team in 2013. This team is going to score a lot of goals and playing more games against the Eastern Conference will be huge for the Hurricanes this season. Carolina went 3-14-3 against the Atlantic division last season. That will not happen this season as the Hurricane's schedule is more favorable in a shortened season. Carolina has more games against the Northeast division this season. Last year, they did quite well against Boston, Ottawa, Buffalo, Toronto, and Montreal going 13-3-4 combined.
The Hurricanes had a few other glaring holes that were addressed both before and after the brutal four-month lockout. They managed to bring back offensive-minded Defenseman Joe Corvo for his third stint with the team, sent veteran goalie Brian Boucher to Philadelphia after he spent most of his only season in Carolina on the injured list, and awarded the job as Cam Ward's backup to veteran Dan Ellis. This duo should be solid between the pipes. Cam Ward will return to his 2010-11 form when he posted a 37-26-10 W/L/OL record, 2.57 GAA and .923 save percentage. Dan Ellis is 72-57-15 with a 2.68 GAA and .908 save percentage now in his 6th season. Very solid backup. The defense is highly skillful and will benefit from the return of Joni Pitkanen, who missed all of last season but is now ready to go.
The Hurricanes are looking to take a significant step forward in coach Kirk Muller's first complete season, and they spent some significant money during the off-season to help Carolina be a playoff contender for year's to come. I love the looks of this team on paper and it should translate into a lot of victories. In fact, Carolina is my pick to win the Southeast division. I don't see the Florida Panthers repeating as the puck bounced their way in winning the SE last season. The Panthers were minus -24 in goal differential and became the first team with a GD of minus -20 or more to win its division. Expect a big drop off by the Florida Panthers this season. For the most part, Carolina skated well in the four months last season under Muller, a first-time NHL Head Coach who took over for the fired Paul Maurice in December of 2011 and led them to points in 37 of 57 games. Eric Staal played at better than a point-per-game pace and now gets to play with his very talented brother. When Tuomo Ruutu returns from his injury this team will be even better. Prior to the injury, Ruutu had 30 points in 57 games and his 17 goals led the Hurricanes at the time. The Hurricanes will win the Southeast (upsetting the Capitals) and be the 4th seed in the East.
Spotlight Game: Ottawa Senators vs. Carolina Hurricanes (Feb, 1st, 2013)
Take Carolina Hurricanes @ -150 or less
After this game the Hurricanes will play their next 6 games all on the road, in a 10-day span. The Hurricanes are too fast for this current Senators' team to deal with. Look for a huge effort on this night before their long road trip.
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