NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Senators vs. Red Wings (December 31)

NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Senators vs. Red Wings (December 31) article feature image

Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Alex DeBrincat and Drake Batherson

  • The Red Wings and Senators face off in a matchup of young, exciting teams.
  • Our expert digs into this matchup and has found betting value on one of the sides.
  • Continue reading for Ryan Dadoun's best bet.

Senators vs. Red Wings Odds

Senators Odds-104
Red Wings Odds-115
Time7 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

The Red Wings and Senators aren't favorites to make the playoffs, but they are two young, exciting teams trending in the right direction. When they met Dec. 17, Ottawa earned a 6-3 victory, but the reality is not much separates these squads. So, will the Senators be able to win again Saturday night or is Detroit primed to even the season series? This one deserves a closer look.

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Ottawa Senators

The Senators were hoping to transition from a rebuilding team to a playoff contender after adding Claude Giroux, Alex DeBrincat and Cam Talbot over the summer. However, that hasn't quite happened.

Ottawa has a 16-16-3 record, which does put it on track to improve upon last season's 33-42-7 finish, but the Senators aren't quite true contenders yet.

You might assume the Senators' defense is what's holding them back, and it's true that's an area of weakness. Ottawa's expected goals allowed stands at 121.93, per moneypuck, which is the ninth-worst in the league. Talbot's managed to hold his own with a 10-8-1 record, 2.68 GAA and a .914 save percentage in 21 contests, but the blueliners in front of him leave something to be desired.

That's not Ottawa's main issue though. The reality is that even after adding DeBrincat  and Giroux, Ottawa has struggled to score goals. To be specific, the Senators are tied for the 23rd-ranked offense with 3.03 goals per game.

DeBrincat has done his part, providing 13 goals and 35 points in 35 games. Giroux, even at the age of 34, is also excelling with 14 goals and 31 points in 35 contests. Ottawa has also gotten plenty out of Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson, who have contributed 37 and 34 points, respectively. Meanwhile, Tim Stützle is en route to set career highs after recording 12 goals and 30 points in 31 contests.

After those five forwards though, Ottawa's offensive production falls off a cliff. The Senators' next best forward is Shane Pinto, who has 17 points. After that, it's Tyler Motte, who has nine points.

To an extent, this highlights the fact that the Senators are in an awkward stage of the rebuilding process. They have assembled a core capable of competing, but haven't yet put together a sufficient supporting cast. Until it accomplishes that, Ottawa will find it difficult to escape the clutches of mediocrity, but what the Senators can do, even as they are, is compete against Detroit.

Detroit Red Wings

Expectations weren't quite as high for Detroit going into the campaign, but the Red Wings were expected to take a step forward after posting a 32-40-10 record last season. Detroit has accomplished that so far, but at 15-12-7, the Red Wings have shown there's still plenty of room for improvement.

Like the Senators, the Red Wings' offense isn't great, though they do have a slight edge in that regard. Detroit is tied for 18th offensively with 3.09 goals per game.

Dylan Larkin has 13 goals and 32 points in 33 contests and is the only member of the Red Wings with at least 30 points.

Detroit has 11 forwards with at least 10 points, which is amazing, and that gets even crazier when you consider the Red Wings' health. Forwards Tyler Bertuzzi (hand), Robby Fabbri (knee), Robert Hagg (undisclosed), Matt Luff (wrist), Jakub Vrana (personal) and Filip Zadina (leg) are all on the Injured Reserve list.

That's a huge chunk of Detroit's potential lineup that's unavailable, but it's a problem the Red Wings have managed to overcome for the vast majority of the season. Of those 11 forwards with at least 10 points, none are on IR.

Given how well the Red Wings have coped with injuries, it will be interesting to see what they play like when they're relatively healthy. That's a question for the future though as none of those injured forwards are likely to return Saturday. Instead, the Red Wings have a goaltending problem.

Alex Nedeljkovic has struggled mightily this season with a 2-4-2 record, 4.09 GAA and a .880 save percentage in nine contests. Magnus Hellberg, who was called up Dec. 11, has been a mixed bag with a 2-2-0 record, 2.74 GAA and a .905 save percentage.

Ville Husso has been the Red Wings' best option with a 12-6-5 record, 2.86 GAA and a .908 save percentage in 24 games. However, he's surrendered at least four goals in each of his past four starts. He also missed Thursday's game against Buffalo because of an illness, so it remains to be seen if he'll even be an option versus Ottawa.

Senators vs. Red Wings Pick

The close nature of this contest is reflected in the odds.

I was tempted to recommend the over/under in this game, but it's placed at a fair 6.5 goals, and ultimately there's too many X-factors when it comes to the goaltending.

Is Husso healthy enough to start? Will Ottawa give Talbot the nod or save him for Sunday's contest against Buffalo?

Without knowing what the goaltending matchup is, I'm going to recommend taking Ottawa on the moneyline. The Senators have won their past two games and are on a 6-2-1 run while Detroit is 2-5-2 in its past nine contests. With most other factors balancing out, taking the hot hand seems reasonable.

Pick: Senators Moneyline (-104) | Play to -115

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