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Los Angeles Kings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins prediction and pick for Thursday night's NHL slate. NHL handicapper Jason Yamaguchi breaks down the game and gives us his pick for this showdown on the ice.
ANALYSIS

Los Angeles Kings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Prediction: Which Team will Continue their Hot Run?

After a quiet night in the NHL with just three games, Thursday night's slate boasts a whopping 11 matchups. The last game of the night will feature the red-hot Penguins (21-9-5) visiting the Kings. Pittsburgh has won 11 of their last 12 games, pulling to within three points of the division-leading Hurricanes.

The Kings (18-13-5) have also played great hockey as of late. They have won four of their last five games; the one loss came against the Predators, who currently lead the Western Conference with 50 points. Over the stretch, the Kings have consistently dominated their opponents and will look to continue their fantastic form by grabbing another two points against the Penguins.

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Los Angeles Kings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Prediction

Despite this, the Penguins have played at a much higher level over the course of the season. In terms of expected goals share, they rank second in the NHL at even strength with a stellar mark of 55.89%, according to Evolving Hockey. The Kings trail in 11th, with a decent xGF share of 51.26%. In other words, both teams tend to generate more offense than their opponents at even strength, but the Penguins' margin of dominance is far greater.

The Penguins hold a sizeable edge in the special-teams category. They boast the league's best penalty kill, one that successfully kills off penalties at a 90.7% clip. Their power play is also solid—it ranks 10th in the NHL in terms of xGF/60, according to Evolving Hockey. By contrast, the Kings' power play ranks 25th with a conversion rate of just 16.4%, and their penalty kill ranks 26th with a kill rate of 75.2%. Pittsburgh will look to capitalize on these discrepancies by cashing in on the man advantage while stifling LA's mediocre power play.

Pittsburgh will continue to see a boost from the addition of star center Evgeni Malkin, who was recently activated from injured reserve. Malkin made his season debut on Tuesday night, and lifted the Penguins to a 4-1 victory over the Ducks by tallying two goals and an assist. His presence markedly improves the Penguins' lineup and will continue to do so moving forward.

In terms of goaltending, this game projects to be an even matchup. Tristan Jarry is expected to start for the Penguins and Jonathan Quick for the Kings. They have both enjoyed resurgent years—each of them ranks in the top 10 by goals saved above expected.

The Kings have enjoyed a nice run of play, one that has propelled them into the third playoff spot in the Pacific division. However, that run is likely to come to a halt against Pittsburgh. The Penguins are a superior team in virtually all aspects of the game. Now that they are fully healthy, expect them to exert their will and prevail against an over-performing Kings team. I'm willing to bet the Penguins down to -160.

Los Angeles Kings vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Pick

  • PICK: Penguins ML (-145)

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Jason Yamaguchi is an avid New York sports fan. He has a proven record of providing +EV bets by combining traditional handicapping tactics with advanced statistics. You can follow him on Twitter @TopMoneyPicks to view all of his bets, including NFL, NHL, and MLB picks.

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