24–7–2 (50 points; .758%)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
7:00 P.M. – THURSDAY, JANUARY 13
|ESPN+ / HULU|
For the first time this season, the Columbus Blue Jackets will be on national television.
Their opponent? The best team in the NHL.
The Blue Jackets face the Carolina Hurricanes from Raleigh, North Carolina on Thursday — the team's third of four meetings this season. The game will be broadcast exclusively on ESPN+ and Hulu, meaning the game will not be available on the Bally Sports network.
Carolina has been lethal this year, picking up a league-best 76% of their points. In their first two games of the season against Columbus — both at Nationwide Arena — the Hurricanes outscored the Blue Jackets by a 12-5 margin, including seven straight goals on New Year's Day to turn a 4-0 deficit into a 7-4 victory.
Both MoneyPuck and FiveThirtyEight have Thursday's game as a probable win for the Hurricanes. The analytic sites give the Blue Jackets just a 26.7% and 27.0% chance, respectively, of winning. Both numbers are the lowest odds of any game this season for a Columbus win.
|PACES & PROJECTIONS|
|26.7%||MONEYPUCK'S ODDS TO WIN||73.3%|
|27.0%||THE 538'S ODDS TO WIN||73.0%|
|80.3||EVOLVING HOCKEY'S POINT PROJ.||112.3|
|79.6||82-GAME POINT PACE||124.2|
The Hurricanes have been in a bit of a lull since the January 1st victory in Columbus. They've played just two games — on back-to-back nights, nonetheless. A 6-3 victory over the Calgary Flames on January 7th extended their win streak to five, but an overtime loss the next night to the Florida Panthers brought that to an end. In all, Carolina has points in ten of their last 11 games.
Sebastian Aho continues to have an MVP-caliber season for Carolina. The 24-year-old center leads the team in goals (15), assists (22), and points (37). Aho leads what is a very deep Hurricane team up the middle, with Jordan Staal and Vinnie Trocheck having big seasons as well.
Frederik Andersen is likely to get the start Thursday. Another Hurricane having an outstanding season that could end with an award, Andersen is 18-5-0 this season, with a .929 save percentage and a 1.96 goals against average. With an expected goals against of 2.67, Andersen's +0.71 difference in GA versus xGA ranks third in the league amongst qualifying goaltenders.
Defenseman Jaccob Slavin will not be in the lineup Thursday, after entering the league's COVID-19 protocol Tuesday. At 23:57 per game, Slavin is Carolina's team leader in average time on ice. Look for Brady Skjei, Tony DeAngelo, and former Blue Jacket Ian Cole to see expanded roles in Slavin's absence.
DEFENSE TURNING A CORNER?
It's not going to be quick, but the Columbus blue line seems to be showing some signs of improvement in the last three games. The Blue Jackets gave up a season-low 20 shots in Tuesday's loss to the Blackhawks, and looked markedly better in the home-and-home with the New Jersey Devils. Columbus killed off nine of the ten power plays against them over the three-game stretch, which comes after allowing ten goals on 22 power plays in the previous eight games. Carolina will be a litmus test for this young Columbus defense.
Elvis Merzlikins was back on the bench Tuesday. His last in-game action came when he replaced an injured Daniil Tarasov in the January 1st matchup with Carolina. Merzlikins was not good, allowing four goals on 15 shots in what reasonable could have been the most frustrating period of play in his NHL career. No goalie announcement has been made as of Thursday morning, but one would have to think Elvis would have revenge on his mind.
DON'T BLOW IT!
Let the Hurricanes do that — and yes, pun very intended. This will be Columbus' first nationally televised game of the season and going up against the best team in the NHL (on the road, to boot) is a recipe for disaster. Be patient, possess the puck, and most of all, make smart decisions.
|29||Patrik Laine||38||Boone Jenner||14||Gus Nyquist|
|93||Jakub Voracek||34||Cole Sillinger||28||Oliver Bjorkstrand|
|59||Yegor Chinakhov||7||Sean Kuraly||16||Max Domi|
|50||Eric Robinson||96||Jack Roslovic||52||Emil Bemstrom|
|8||Zach Werenski||27||Adam Boqvist|
|44||Vladislav Gavrikov||2||Andrew Peeke|
|46||Dean Kukan||22||Jake Bean|
|90||Elvis Merzlikins||70||Joonas Korpisalo|
*SUBJECT TO CHANGE