NHL Odds, Expert Pick, Prediction: Hurricanes vs. Penguins (December 22)

NHL Odds, Expert Pick, Prediction: Hurricanes vs. Penguins (December 22) article feature image

Josh Lavallee/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Jaccob Slavin of the Carolina Hurricanes.

  • The Carolina Hurricanes meet the Pittsburgh Penguins in Thursday night NHL action.
  • Both teams have been rolling in December, but the Canes' defense could be the difference in Thursday night's game.
  • Check out Tony Sartori's full betting preview for Hurricanes vs. Penguins below.

Hurricanes vs. Penguins Odds

Hurricanes Odds+104
Penguins Odds-125
Over/Under5.5 (-114 / -106)
Time7 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

We have a Metropolitan Division tilt with the third-place Pittsburgh Penguins hosting the first-place Carolina Hurricanes. These clubs just squared off last Sunday, as Carolina grabbed a 3-2 win at home.

Will the Canes take care of business once again, or can the Penguins grab their revenge on home ice as a short favorite? Let's take a look at the odds and see where the betting value lies.

Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes have returned to tremendous form in the month of December, as they are starting to look like one of the Cup favorites that so many predicted they would be before the season started.

Carolina has now won six straight games and 10 of its last 11 — a trend that should continue in this matchup.

Slated to start between the pipes is rookie netminder Pyotr Kochetkov, who has firmly cemented himself in the Calder Trophy race. Through 15 appearances in the crease this season, he's 10-1-4 with a .928 SV% and 1.94 GAA.

Based on his metrics, regression should not be an issue, as Kochetkov ranks sixth among starting goaltenders in goals saved above expected per 60 minutes (GSAx/60) at 5-on-5. Kochetkov is 2-0 with a stellar .930 SV% and 1.96 GAA in his two starts against the Penguins this season.

In front of Kochetkov is one of the best — if not the best — defenses in hockey. The Canes rank first in the league in expected goals against per 60 minutes (xGA/60) at 5-on-5.

Additionally, this defense and young netminder should receive some goal support, as Carolina ranks fourth in the league in expected goals per 60 minutes (xGF/60) at 5-on-5.

Star center Sebastian Aho is questionable once again for this game, and head coach Rod Brind'Amour made It sound like they want him to get more practice in before stepping back into the lineup. But the Canes have survived just fine in his absence.

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Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins also enter this contest in tremendous form, winning eight of their last 10 games. However, each of those two losses in that stretch was against Carolina, a trend that is likely to continue on Thursday night.

Pittsburgh likely has a slight edge offensively in this contest, but that edge is offset by the disadvantage it possesses defensively and in the crease. At 5-on-5, the Penguins rank 12th in the league in xGA/60.

While that's still a strong ranking, Pittsburgh's depth at the blue line does not compare to Carolina's. This lack of depth is especially true with the absence of defenseman Jeff Petry, who is on LTIR with an upper-body injury.

Backing up this defense is goaltender Tristan Jarry. Like Kochetkov, the Penguins' netminder has been tremendous this season.

However, based on his metrics, regression could be around the corner. Among starting goaltenders, Jarry ranks 20th in GSAx/60 at 5-on-5.

This expected regression could be realized against the Hurricanes, a team he has struggled against over the past couple of seasons. Over his last four starts against Carolina, Jarry is 1-2-1 with a .899 SV% and 3.76 GAA.

Hurricanes vs. Penguins Pick

Both of these teams rank in the top four in the league in xGF/60 at 5-on-5, although Pittsburgh is stronger at finishing and special teams. That said, Carolina's edge defensively and in net should offset that fact.

Both of these teams have been surging in December, which explains why the Penguins are slight favorites on home ice. However, the Canes have had their number, winning seven of the last nine meetings between these two clubs.

In what is arguably the best game on tonight's slate, take the better team at plus money.

Pick: Hurricanes ML +104 (Play to -110)

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