The NHL betting board for Thursday is headlined by a battle between a pair of familiar foes as the Tampa Bay Lightning face the Columbus Blue Jackets.
These teams faced off in the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, with Columbus upsetting Tampa Bay in 2019 but the Bolts bounced the Jackets last year, en route to an eventual Stanley Cup win.
We break down the NHL odds for this Central Division matchup and bring you our best free Lightning vs. Blue Jackets picks and predictions for Thursday, January 21, with the puck dropping at 7 p.m. ET.
Tampa Bay Lightning at Columbus Blue Jackets Betting Preview
Lightning: Nikita Kucherov RW (Out), Marian Gaborik RW (Out), Blake Coleman C (Out), Curtis McElhinney G (Out), Anders Nilsson G (Out).
Blue Jackets: Mikko Koivu C (Questionable), Gustav Nyquist RW (Out), Brandon Dubinsky C (Out).
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Betting Trend to Know
The Blue Jackets are 8-21 in their last 29 games overall. Find more NHL betting trends for Lightning vs. Blue Jackets.
NHL Sharp Money and Line Movement ReportBy Patrick Everson
Tampa Bay opened -170 on the moneyline at FanDuel, peaked at -175, dipped to -164 and is now -168, but make no mistake, it's all Lightning. As of 4:45 p.m. ET, Tampa is taking 93 percent of bets and 94 percent of money, and the Lightning are getting hammered at -1.5 on the puckline, as well, to the tune of 82 percent of bets/92 percent of cash. The total opened at 6.5 early Tuesday and dropped to 5.5 early today, though tickets and money are both running beyond 3/1 on the Over.Check out the full line movement for this game
The Lightning opened their season with a pair of easy victories, defeating the Blackhawks by scores of 5-1 and 5-2. While Chicago isn't exactly the toughest of opponents, the fact that the Bolts generated 35 shots per game and slotted five goals in each contest is a great sign for a team that will be without superstar winger Nikita Kucherov for the entire season.
It also isn't like the Blue Jackets have exactly faced powerhouse opponents either. They're fresh off a 3-2 overtime loss to the lowly Red Wings and lost two games to the Predators by a combined score of 8-3.
The Jackets shocked the world by sweeping the Lightning in 2019 after Tampa Bay had tied the NHL record for wins during the regular season. But it's been all Tampa Bay since then, with the Bolts having won five of the last six games in the head-to-head.
The Lightning simply have too much firepower and skill for the Jackets to handle. With Columbus just 8-21 in its last 29 games going back to last season, and the Bolts 46-17 in their previous 63, back them on the moneyline.
PREDICTION: Tampa Bay -159
Tampa Bay has a dominant and deep group of forwards, along with a gifted group of blueliners led by Victor Hedman. That said, Columbus plays the sort of tight-checking game that can usually keep high-flying offenses in check.
While Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikens has looked shaky to start the season, Joonas Korpisalo has looked much sharper and will get the nod in nets tonight. Korpi has turned aside 67 of 71 shots this season and also had some terrific postseason performances last year, including an incredible 85-save game against the Lightning.
Unfortunately for Korpisalo, he shouldn't expect much help in front of him with the Jackets averaging just 1.89 expected goals per 60 minutes at even strength. That middling offense will make it difficult for Columbus to find the back of the net against 2019 Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has stopped 57 of 60 shots this season.
Keep in mind that these teams have a recent history of lower-scoring games, despite combining for nine goals when they previously faced off in Game 5 of their first-round series last August. The Lightning and Blue Jackets have combined for five goals or fewer in five of the last six games in the head-to-head. Back the Under again.
PREDICTION: Under 5.5 (-110)
Lightning vs Blue Jackets Betting Card
- Moneyline Tampa Bay (-159)
- Under 5.5 (-110)
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