NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Hurricanes vs. Blue Jackets (Jan. 1)

NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Hurricanes vs. Blue Jackets (Jan. 1) article feature image
Credit:

Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Sebastian Aho.

  • The Hurricanes are still a -160 favorite over the Blue Jackets in Saturday afternoon NHL action.
  • Nicholas Martin is laying it with the favorite, as Columbus has failed to generate much at even-strength.
  • Get his full Hurricanes vs. Blue Jackets preview and pick below.

Hurricanes vs. Blue Jackets Odds

Hurricanes Odds -160
Blue Jackets Odds +140
Over/Under 6
Time 1 p.m. ET
TV ESPN+
Odds updated Saturday morning and via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

Columbus hosts Metro Division rival Carolina as it looks to build upon a gutty comeback win over Nashville Thursday via shootout. The upstart young Blue Jackets are still very much alive in the Eastern wild-card race at 15-13-1, but they will be met by one of the league’s best.

Earlier this season we saw the Canes thump Columbus, 5-1, at Nationwide, so will we see a similar contest here?

Hurricanes Due for Offensive Uptick

With Sebastien Aho and Evgeny Svechnikov back in the lineup, Carolina looked true to form in its return to play Thursday, dominating shorthanded Montreal 4-0 to make it three-straight with a strong performance from backup Antti Raanta.

The Hurricanes own the league’s highest points percentage, and all indications are that Rod Brind’Amour’s group is a legitimate cup contender. The roster features a very strong blue line, with a notably deep collection of offensive talent up front.

With Tony DeAngelo continuing to keep the Hurricanes’ power play humming, as well as some strong play at even strength and Ethan Bear showing as a notably sound addition, Carolina’s defensive core is skating every bit as solid as what we saw last season, even after the loss of Dougie Hamilton.

And considering the forward unit figures to be improved and that Frederik Andersen has been in unbelievable form in goal, this group looks scary good.

The aforementioned Aho could be in the best form of his stellar young career, skating close to his true prime. He is surrounded by a wealth of offensive support with forwards such as Evgeny Svechnikov, Martin Necas, Seth Jarvis, and Teuvo Teravainen offering notable upside this season.

That depth shone through in December, with the team posting the league’s highest xGF/60 rating at 3.13 while oft short some key pieces.

I think that Carolina is a good candidate for some positive offensive regression, and I continue to believe it can push past its current eighth-ranked goals for per game mark closer towards the top five as the season moves along.

Frederik Andersen returned as a backup for Thursday’s contest against Montreal, and it seems plausible he may return here.

Andersen owns a +15.7 goals saved above expected rating (GSAx) with a .930 save % throughout 21 games played this season.

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Can Blue Jackets’ Young Group Sustain Level of Play?

The upstart young Blue Jackets have been one of the league’s more enjoyable stories this season, with a likeable combination of youngsters making notable differences at the NHL level.

However, as you might expect looking at their less-talented roster, the team has not controlled much of the play at 5-on-5 and holds a 44.82 xGF% share in the month of December.

Strong goaltending from Elvis Merzlikins certainly helps to erase some of that, and Brad Larsen’s group does appear to do a better-than-average job of pressuring shots in the defensive zone, but I still think some regression is coming here.

The regression could come offensively, where the Blue Jackets have managed the league’s 11th-best output at 3.17 goals for per game, while not appearing on paper to hold an above-average crew.

Patrik Laine returned vs. Nashville and broke through with a goal. He offers some intriguing upside with his lethal shot for the Jackets.

However, his addition will simply help to try to replace the club’s top scorer in Oliver Bjorkstrand, who has found his way into COVID protocols.

Elvis Merzlikins should draw the start here, and he has been very solid so far this season with a +1.5 GSAx rating and .911 save %.

Hurricanes vs. Blue Jackets Pick

With the Capitals breathing down their neck for the division lead, there’s no time for off nights from Rod Brind’Amour’s club. They should come into this one ready to take advantage of a Columbus club that has not controlled much of the play at 5-on-5.

I think this contest offers some notable mismatches for Carolina’s ultra-talented middle six lines to control a lot of the play, and I like the chances that the Hurricanes can manage to claim two very gettable points here.

Carolina is currently listed at -160 to take this one, and I think that they hold value all the way down to -180 in a contest where they should be able to generate a good number of high-quality chances.

Pick: Carolina Hurricanes -160 | Play to -175

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