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Blue Jackets vs. Penguins NHL Odds & Preview: Playoff Seeding on Line for Pittsburgh

Blue Jackets vs. Penguins NHL Odds & Preview: Playoff Seeding on Line for Pittsburgh article feature image
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  • The Jackets and Penguins go head-to-head in a game that is way more meaningful to Pitt.
  • The Jackets are far out of the playoff picture while the Pens sit one point ahead of the Caps in the Metro Division.
  • Here's how Carol Schram is betting this NHL affair on Friday.

Blue Jackets vs. Penguins Odds

Blue Jackets Odds +333
Penguins Odds -450
Over/Under 6.5 (-115/-105)
Time 7 p.m. ET
TV ESPN+
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

Playoff seeding is on the line for the Pittsburgh Penguins when they wrap up their regular season at PPG Paints Arena on Friday.

Far outside the postseason picture, the Columbus Blue Jackets will be looking to play spoiler and wrap up their season on a high note.

Here’s the latest on both teams, and your best bet for Friday’s game.

Jackets’ Defensive Play Lies As Major Weakness

Friday’s game will be the last one of the year for both teams, and the second half of a back-to-back set for Columbus.

The Blue Jackets just recorded a 5-2 home win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday. They are 4-5-1 in their last 10 games, and have beaten playoff teams in two of their last three games.

Like many squads at this stage of the season, their injury list is long. When there’s nothing left to play for, even minor issues are just cause to sit out.

Notable names on the sidelines Thursday included veteran forwards Patrik Laine and Boone Jenner, defenseman Zach Werenski and newcomer Nick Blankenburg.

Coach Brad Larsen has also worked Blankenburg’s higher-profile University of Michigan teammate Kent Johnson into his lineup over the last couple of weeks, and he has picked up three assists so far.

The biggest thing keeping Columbus out of the playoffs this season has been the club’s defensive play. Averaging 3.60 goals against per game heading into Thursday’s contest, the Blue Jackets have given up the fifth-most goals in the league, and their 35 shots against per game are second highest.

Elvis Merzlikins has been asked to carry a heavy load in net. Despite some injury and health issues of his own, he has made 58 appearances and faced the fourth-most shots of any goalie in the league this year.

Merzlikins got the nod for his team’s final home game of the year on Thursday, so he may get a reprieve on the road against Pittsburgh on Friday.

If J.F. Berube plays, it’ll be his sixth appearance of the year. In his last start on April 17, he gave up five goals in Columbus’s 6-4 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.

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Will Jarry Be in Lineup?

Heading into Friday’s action, the Penguins sit one point ahead of the Washington Capitals in the Metro Division standings.

If that holds, they’ll finish in third place and face the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs, while the Capitals sit in the second wild-card spot and would match up against the Florida Panthers.

After dropping a 5-1 road decision to the New York Islanders on Thursday, the Caps will close out their regular-season schedule against the Rangers on Friday.

The Penguins hold the edge in the tiebreaker, so a single point against Columbus would be enough to lock down third place, no matter what happens with Washington.

The big question mark for Pittsburgh is the status of starting goalie Tristan Jarry. He has now missed five games with a broken bone in his foot and is being described as week-to-week.

In his absence, Casey DeSmith has carried most of the load, amassing a 2-2-0 record.

The Penguins will have had two days off before Friday’s game, and should get at least a couple more days of rest before the playoffs begin. That schedule suggests that DeSmith will get the nod in net against Columbus.

But just when their goaltending could use some run support, Pittsburgh’s scoring has gone cold. After a 7-2 rout of Detroit last week, the Penguins managed just one goal in each of their last two games.

Up front, forward Jason Zucker left Tuesday’s game against Edmonton with what’s being called an upper-body injury. He’s listed as day-to-day, but this sounds like something different from the lower-body and core afflictions that caused him to miss time earlier in the season.

As much as the Penguins would love to lock up third place, coach Mike Sullivan may put an even higher priority on resting his key players before the postseason, especially if they’ve been playing through bumps and bruises.

Don’t be surprised if some other lineup scratches are announced ahead of puck drop on Friday.

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Blue Jackets vs. Penguins Pick

The Blue Jackets took to the ice with a healthy swagger Thursday night when they beat the Lightning to close out their home schedule.

But don’t look for that to translate to Pittsburgh on Friday.

The Penguins will be the more well-rested team. They’ll be playing in front of their home fans for the last time in the regular season. And while they’ll be trying to make sure they get out of the game with no further injuries, they’ll also be looking to lock down that third spot in their division and head into the postseason on a high note.

As heavy favorites on the moneyline, though, there isn’t much value in backing Pittsburgh at -350 or so.

With DeSmith in Pittsburgh’s net and Columbus icing either Berube or putting Merzlikins into a back-to-back, the over looks much more appealing.

Pick: Over 6 (-120); play down to -135

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