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NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Bruins vs. Devils (December 23)

NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Bruins vs. Devils (December 23) article feature image
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Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images. Pictured: Boston Bruins celebrate a goal.

  • The Devils host a red-hot Bruins team before hitting the holiday break.
  • New Jersey snapped a six-game losing streak in its last game and is hoping to now start a winning streak.
  • Carol Schram breaks down the odds and offers up a betting pick below.

Bruins vs. Devils Odds

Bruins Odds -120
Devils Odds +100
Over/Under 6.5 (-102/-120)
Time 7 p.m. ET
TV MSGSN2
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

The New Jersey Devils are getting a lump of coal from the NHL’s  schedule-maker for Christmas. Their four-day holiday break is bookended by a pair of home dates against the league-leading Boston Bruins.

The Bruins will be coming into New Jersey on Friday after hosting the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night. The Devils are now back at home following a two-game road trip which saw them drop a 4-1 decision in Carolina on Tuesday, then snap their six-game losing streak with a 4-2 win in Florida on Wednesday.

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

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Boston Bruins

The Bruins have been the most consistent team in the NHL this season. They’ve been dominant at home and are 8-4-0 on the road. They’re on pace for 137 points, which would eclipse the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings (131) for the most points since the Presidents’ Trophy was introduced in 1986.

The Bruins rank third in expected goals share at 5-on-5 (55.76%). Heading into Thursday’s action, they’re second in scoring (3.90 goals per game), first in defending (by quite a large margin  at 2.16 goals against per game), third on the power play (29.0%), first on the penalty kill (85.0%) and third in shots taken per game (34.8). The only metric where they aren’t absolutely elite is in shots allowed, where they’re tied for sixth at 29.2 shots against per game.

In net, Linus Ullmark has been exceptional, with a .937 save percentage and 17.5 goals saved above expected. Meanwhile, Jeremy Swayman’s numbers have been closer to the league average. Swayman is starting against Winnipeg on Thursday, which should leave Ullmark available for the in-conference matchup against the Devils on Friday.

After clearing waivers and being assigned to the AHL on Tuesday, forward Craig Smith was recalled by Boston on Wednesday. This was a move that’s designed to save a bit of salary-cap space. Smith was back in the his spot on the fourth line on Thursday.


New Jersey Devils

Like the Bruins, the Devils were riding high through the first couple of months of the season, skating to a 21-4-1 record through Dec. 6. But since then, it has been tough sledding. New Jersey has gone 1-5-1 over the past two weeks.

Despite the rough patch, the Devils still boast the best 5-on-5 expected goals share in the league (58.87%). However, they’ve been averaging just 2.28 goals scored, while giving up 3.71, over the past seven games. That’s not a recipe for success.

The Devils are also now dealing with some key injuries on the back end. John Marino missed Wednesday’s game after suffering an upper-body injury the day before. Then, Ryan Graves also got hurt.

New Jersey hasn’t updated the status of either player as of Thursday afternoon, but defenseman Nikita Okhotiuk was recalled from the AHL Utica Devils. He’s a lefty, so that suggests he’d step in if Graves can’t play on Friday. Kevin Bahl, also a left shot, took Marino’s spot against the Panthers.

In net, MacKenzie Blackwood is back after missing six weeks due to a knee injury. In the early going, he’s been strong. He relieved Vitek Vanecek for one period in Carolina on Tuesday, then stopped 34 shots to deliver the win against the Panthers on Wednesday.

After looking good early in the season, Vanecek seemed to sag a bit recently as he dealt with a heavy workload while Blackwood was injured. With a four-day break after Friday’s game, Lindy Ruff could go back to Blackwood against the Bruins.


Bruins vs. Devils Pick

With Boston playing Thursday night while New Jersey is idle, there are some information gaps when it comes to handicapping this matchup.

The Bruins will be in the tougher schedule situation with their back-to-back, but knowing Ullmark will start in Jersey tips the scales significantly in Boston’s favor. That becomes even more true if the Devils are missing Marino and/or Graves on Friday night.

The Bruins are a rare road favorite as of Thursday evening and when a team is playing as well as Boston this season, a moneyline of -120 is a pretty healthy return.

Enjoy this gift from the oddsmakers.

Pick: Bruins (-120) | Play to -130

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