NHL Picks: Stars vs. Blue Jackets

David Lawrence

Monday, January 28, 2013 4:21 PM GMT

The Columbus Blue Jackets will have you believe that they’re an improved team. However, one win in their first five games might indicate otherwise. Meanwhile, the Dallas Stars will have you believe they’re on the rise to but their two wins in five games isn’t exactly encouraging either.

The two teams square off in Columbus on Monday as the NHL odds makers have made this game a virtual pick ‘em.

The Dallas Stars can win because…

They should be back at full strength on Monday.

The Stars have started the season without Jamie Benn, who is their most prolific offense player. He’s finally re-signed, his visa issues are no longer a problem and he’s ready to rejoin the lineup. He’s expected to play on Monday along with Jaromir Jagr, who is dealing with a minor back injury, and Derek Roy, who has a slight groin injury, should be good to go as well. To this point in the season, the Stars have been without the use of their full arsenal. Now that should be back intact.

Goaltender Kari Lehtonen thrives against Columbus as he has a 1.67 GAA over his last three meetings with Columbus – all wins. Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason was 1-2-0 with a 2.69 GAA against the Stars last season.

Special teams should be in the Stars favor here as well as they have killed 14 of their last 17 shorthanded situations over the last four games while the Blue Jackets haven’t scored a power play goal on any of their last 14 man-advantages.

The Columbus Blue Jackets can win because…

They are better than their record indicates. On one hand, notching just one win in five games is not good by any measure. However, the reality here is a little bit different. The Blue Jackets have been very competitive this season and they’ve challenged the elite teams they faced. In turn, that means they should be able to win at home against a Stars team that failed to make the playoffs last season.

The Blue Jackets have a win over Nashville Predators, took the Detroit Red Wings to a shootout and lost by a goal to the Chicago Blackhawks in their most recent game. That contest should have been even closer as the Blue Jackets were jobbed out of a goal when Derrick Brassard’s second-period marker was called back. At the very least, the Blue Jackets have been competitive this year and deserve some credit – even if they’re not winning.

Be sure to check out my NHL Picks of the Day for more free betting selections.

Outlook & NHL Betting Prediction:

The Stars should get a number of good players back in the lineup on Monday but keep in mind that it doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will gel. Don’t be surprised if the team struggles to find some rhythm as the lineup has had so many moving parts to adjust to.

The odds makers are aware of this, and for that reason the lines have been set very tight. When making your NHL picks, you might be tempted to back the dog for the added value, however, the Stars are the better of the two teams here. They only have one more win on the year but they’ve been playing without their best player. If he’s back in the lineup – along with Jagr and Roy – the Stars should win this game.

NHL Picks: Stars -105

[gameodds]7/218169/43/us[/gameodds]