NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Kings vs. Blue Jackets (March 4)
Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Patrik Laine.
Kings vs. Blue Jackets Odds
|Blue Jackets Odds||+135|
|Over/Under||6 (-120 / +100)|
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|Odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
Two teams with more in common than you might think will be meeting up at Nationwide Arena on Friday, when the Columbus Blue Jackets host the Los Angeles Kings.
The Kings allow the fewest shots per game in the league, while the Blue Jackets allow the most. Despite their different defensive approaches, both clubs are riding recent hot streaks as they try to make playoff pushes.
Here’s the latest on both teams and your best bet for Friday’s game.
Kings Defense Trending In Wrong Direction
With a 7-3-0 record in their last 10 games, the Kings have climbed into second place in the Pacific Division. But their position is tenuous — after Thursday’s games, six other teams are five points or less behind them. Every night, the out-of-town scoreboard is getting to be a nail biter, with seven Western Conference clubs basically fighting for four playoff spots.
After a great stretch that saw them win seven out of eight games, the Kings no-showed on home ice last Monday, losing 7-0 to Boston. L.A. then kicked off a four-in-six road trip in Dallas on Wednesday by dropping a 4-3 regulation decision to the Stars, who are one of the teams chasing them.
That’s an uncharacteristic 11 goals against in two games — the same number they’d given up in their previous five combined. While the Kings have been allowing an average of 0.38 more goals per game since Jan. 1 than they did through the first 2 1/2 months of the season, they’ve also increased their scoring even more, by an average of 0.76 goals per game.
On most nights, that new differential has been a winning combination.
Interestingly, most of the shift in both offensive and defensive results has come at even strength. Special teams have been consistently poor for the Kings, who rank 27th on the power play and 29th on the penalty kill.
Columbus Holding Onto Playoff Hopes
Over in Columbus, the Blue Jackets split the first two games of their current five-game homestand, dropping a tight 3-2 game against Pittsburgh before beating the Devils 4-3.
Friday’s game against Los Angeles is part of a big weekend, with Rick Nash set to become the first player in Blue Jackets history to have his number retired when the Bruins come to town on Saturday night.
With that date circled on the calendar, could the Blue Jackets look past Friday’s less meaningful game? Perhaps, especially playing against a non-conference opponent they haven’t faced since Jan. 6, 2020.
But they shouldn’t. The Jackets have been on a roll since the All-Star Break, and their 8-3-0 record has pulled them within 10 points of Washington and the second wild-card spot in the East with two games in hand. It’s a tough hill to climb, but every game and every point is valuable if Columbus hopes to keep a faint playoff dream alive in a season where expectations were low.
The recent charge has been led by Patrik Laine, who has put up 23 points in his last 13 games. J.F. Berube guarded the net admirably during Elvis Merzlikins’ recent battle with a lower-body injury, and the No. 1 has been solid in his two starts since returning to action, allowing three goals in each game.
Joonas Korpisalo is also working his way back from a lower-body injury, so we could see Merzlikins and Berube split the starts this weekend. Merzlikins may get the higher-profile game on Saturday.
Back in the NHL for the first time since the 2017-18 season, Berube went 3-1-0 in his four recent starts, recording a solid 3.1 goals saved above expected.
Goaltending matters in Columbus, because of their grim defensive metrics. The Blue Jackets rank 30th overall in both Corsi Against percentage per 60 and High-Danger Corsi Against percentage against per 60.
In addition to Korpisalo, the Blue Jackets are dealing with a handful of other injuries to their skaters. The most significant is defenseman Zach Werenski, who has missed the last four games with an upper-body issue.
Kings vs. Blue Jackets Pick
The Blue Jackets are generous with the scoring opportunities that they give up and allow the second-most goals in the league, but they’re also in the top 10 in NHL scoring. The Kings are not as tight defensively as they were earlier in the season, but they’ve been finding ways to put the puck in the net of late.
Both these teams have been delivering inconsistent recent results, and it’s not yet clear who will be minding the crease at either end of the ice on Friday.
But there’s enough explosiveness on both these teams to make this a potentially tough night for the netminders, whoever gets the nod.
At a relatively conservative 6, the over looks like the best bet for this matchup.
Pick: Over 6 (-120); play down to -125