NHL Picks: Blue Jackets vs. Blackhawks

David Schwab

Friday, March 1, 2013 4:39 PM GMT

The Columbus Blue Jackets have the unenviable task of going on the road this Friday night to face the unbeatable Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.

NHL Game Preview and Pick

The puck is set to drop at 5:30 p.m. (PT) in this Central Division clash and the game will be broadcast nationally on the NHL Network. Let's look at the NHL Betting Odds for this game.

Year-to-Date NHL Record: 17-7-2 

Blue Jackets Overview

The Blue Jackets come into this contest riding a three-game losing streak and buried at the bottom of the Western Conference standings with just 13 points in their first 20 games. The only ray of hope in this game is the fact that they came close to actually beating Chicago last Sunday in a 1-0 loss as 271 road underdogs. The total has stayed UNDER in five of their last seven games.

Columbus is ranked next to last in the NHL in scoring with an average of 2.2 goals-per-game. It has been just as bad on the power play; converting on 12.2 percent of its chances. Defensively, it has not been much better with a goals-against-average of 3.0. Look for Sergei Bobrovsky to be in goal against Chicago, but that has not been confirmed. In 12 previous outings he has a GAA of 2.90 and a .899 save percentage.

Blackhawks Overview

Chicago extended its record-breaking undefeated streak to 20 games with a 3-0 shutout of St. Louis on Thursday night as a 104 road favorite. It is now 17-0-3 on the year and leading Anaheim in the conference standings by eight points. Its margin of victory during this amazing run is a league-best 27 goals, however the total has stayed UNDER in its last four games.

With a goals-per-game average of 3.1 and GAA of 1.7, which is tops in the NHL, the Blackhawks only real concern heading into Friday night’s contest is the health of goaltender Cory Crawford. He left Thursday’s game with an upper body injury and remains questionable at this time. Fortunately Chicago has a very capable backup in Ray Emery. He has a save percentage of .931 and a 1.92 GAA in nine previous appearances this season.

Blue Jackets vs. Blackhawks Betting Lines and Trends

The Blue Jackets have been opened by BetOnline as prohibitive 257 road underdogs on the money line while Chicago is listed as an overwhelming 287 favorite at home. The total for this game has been set at 5.5.

The Blue Jackets are 14-42 in their last 56 road games and 12-49 in their last 61 games against a team with a winning record. The total has stayed UNDER in their last four road games.

The Blackhawks are 37-15 in their last 52 Central Division games and 37-18 in their last 55 games following a win. The total has stayed UNDER in 10 of their last 12 home games.

Head-to-head in this divisional matchup, Columbus is 7-20 in the last 27 meetings and the total has stayed UNDER in both meetings this season. The Blue Jackets have lost their last four road games against Chicago.

[gameodds]7/219718/43/us[/gameodds]

Blue Jackets vs. Blackhawks Free NHL Pick

While it is highly doubtful that lowly Columbus is going to be the team to end the Blackhawks’ incredible streak, but betting Chicago on the current money line is just too much of a risk. A possible play would be to take the Blackhawks -1.5 at -110 on the puck line, but my NHL free pick in this game is UNDER on the total line.

Columbus vs. Chicago UNDER 5.5 (lines provided by BetOnline)