NHL January Preview
Gerard Gallant’s return to Vegas, a heavyweight in Carolina, and the Battle of Alberta feature in our preview of January’s biggest NHL games. We have also provided a futures betting update as we veer towards the halfway point of an engrossing season.
New York Rangers vs. Vegas Golden Knights
Thursday, January 6, at T-Mobile Arena
Former Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant will return to Vegas for the first time since he was fired in January 2020 on Thursday. Gallant was 18-75-20 in his three seasons in Sin City, leading the Knights to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018 – the franchise’s inaugural season – and then reaching the playoffs again in the subsequent two years, but he was then ruthlessly axed.
He found a new job last summer, taking over as head coach at the New York Rangers. The Rangers are enjoying a strong season under Gallant’s stewardship, and they sit third in the Metropolitan Division, just two points behind leader Washington. They have won their last two games.
The Golden Knights are top of the Pacific Division, with the best points tally in the league, and some sportsbooks now make Vegas the joint second favorite to win the Stanley Cup. It will be fascinating to see if Gallant can outfox his former team, or if the Knights can flex their Cup credentials against a Rangers team led by the dynamic Artemi Panarin.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Thursday, January 6, at Wells Fargo Center
The Penguins have climbed above the Flyers in the Metropolitan Division after embarking on a magnificent eight-game winning streak, so they should carry a great deal of momentum into the Battle of Pennsylvania. All eyes will be on Evan Rodrigues, who banged in a hat-trick against the Sharks and is now a mere three points off a career high of 29. Tristan Jarry continues to impress in net, and Jake Guentzel has looked sharp on his return from injury.
The Flyers have dropped their last two games, leaving them in fifth place in a very tough division. They are only a couple of points behind the Bruins in the wild card race, but they have played four more games, so they need to go on a winning streak of their own.
Florida Panthers vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Saturday, January 8, at PNC Arena
Two of the best teams in the NHL will go head-to-head in Carolina on Saturday. The Hurricanes were on fire in December, with seven wins from 10 games, and they have accumulated the highest points percentage of any team in the league this season. They are just one point behind the Capitals at the top of the Metropolitan Division, despite having played three fewer games, and they have allowed fewer goals than any other team.
Yet the Canes will need to be at their very best to beat a Panthers team that is also enjoying a terrific season. Florida is a point behind Atlantic Division leader Tampa Bay, despite playing two fewer games, and it is currently on a three-game winning streak. Their recent 9-3 win against the Lightning was sensational, especially as it came just 24 hours after beating the Rangers, so it will be exciting to see if they can take down Carolina at PNC Arena.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Colorado Avalanche
Saturday, January 8, at Ball Arena
The Leafs will be buzzing after their 6-0 win over the Senators in the battle of Ontario. William Nylander scored twice in that game, and he is on course for the best season of his career which has justified his $6.9 million salary.
Toronto is three points behind Atlantic Division leader Tampa Bay, with three games to spare. It is coming up against the Avalanche, who remain the Stanley Cup favorites after taking 38 points from their opening 28 games. There is still plenty of time for Colorado to overtake the teams above them in the Central Division. They should start welcoming key players back from injury and Covid quarantine soon, and it will be interesting to see how they perform against an elite team like the Maple Leafs.
Washington Capitals vs. Minnesota Wild
Saturday, January 8, at Xcel Energy Center
The Caps are clinging onto top spot in the Metropolitan Division, but they need a strong January if they are to hold off the Hurricanes. One of their toughest games sees them take on the Minnesota Wild, who have lots of talented players.
However, this game will be more important for Minnesota following a damaging five-game losing streak. It has relinquished the lead in the Central Division, and it is still smarting from a painful defeat in the Winter Classic. Yet Kirill Kaprizov is still in fine form, and the Wild can give the Capitals a tough game.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Saturday, January 15, at United Center
An exciting blend of youth and experience has made the Ducks one of the top teams in the Pacific Division, but a four-game losing streak has dented their momentum somewhat. They have a chance of reaching the playoffs, but they really need to beat teams like the Blackhawks if they are to do so.
The Hawks are also on a four-game losing streak, but their prospects look a lot bleaker. They have the third-lowest points tally in the Western Conference, and Marc-Andre Fleury, Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane cannot carry this team far. The Ducks should leave the Windy City with an important win on January 15.
Nashville Predators vs. St Louis Blues
Monday, January 17, at Scottrade Center
The Predators are firmly in contention for glory in the Central Division after making a flying start to the season. A resurgent Matt Duchene drove Nashville to seven straight wins before the break over Christmas, while Filip Forsberg has impressed, and Roman Josi remains in the hunt for the Norris Trophy.
They have an intriguing game against the Blues in January. St Louis is top of the Central Division following that impressive Winter Classic win, which saw Jordan Kyrou heat up Target Field with a dazzling performance. If he keeps it up, the Blues could get the better of the Predators in this heavyweight contest.
Calgary Flames vs. Edmonton Oilers
Thursday, January 20, at Rogers Place
The latest iteration of the Battle of Alberta could prove to be a classic. The Oilers are in freefall in the Pacific Division, having won just two of their last 10 games. They are 3-7-2 since the start of December, and the blame lies squarely with their woeful goaltending.
They led the division in the opening months of the season, but the Oilers have now dropped to fourth, two points below an improving Calgary team. The Flames have not been on the ice much in recent weeks, but they have won two in a row. Their best performances have come on the road, so they could pile more misery on Oilers fans on January 20.
Washington Capitals vs. Boston Bruins
Thursday, January 20, at TD Garden
The Bruins have a strong opportunity to overtake the Flyers in the wild card race during January, but they need to start building momentum. David Pastrnak has gone nine games without a goal, which is worrying for Boston fans, and they will hope to see his drought come to an end pretty swiftly.
This will be the first meeting between the Bruins and the Caps this season. Washington Caps picked up a 4-3 win when these teams met back for a preseason game in October.
Vegas Golden Knights vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Saturday, January 29, at Amalie Arena
The Golden Knights and the Lightning will face off in an eagerly anticipated game towards the end of the month. Tampa Bay is the favorite to win the Eastern Conference, while Vegas is the second favorite in the west, so there is a chance that these teams could meet in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Lightning picked up a 4-2 win in the last meeting between the teams, which took place on December 22. Vegas was riding a five-game winning streak at the time, and it battled to a 3-1 lead in the middle period. However, the Lightning scored two quickfire goals towards the end of the period, and Steven Stamkos buried a power-play goal to hand his team the lead. Tampa held on, despite Vegas holding a 41-19 edge in shots.
Vegas is 4-3 ahead in the all-time series against Tampa since the franchise was founded, and the teams have been involved in lots of tight, intriguing clashes, so this upcoming game should be very exciting.
Futures Betting Update
DraftKings has a market leading +425 on the Lightning to win the Eastern Conference, while FanDuel has +500 on the Panthers and the Maple Leafs. The Hurricanes are +700 with Caesars Sportsbook, and the Caps are +800 with FanDuel.
The Avs remain the +250 favorites with FanDuel to win the Western Conference, as they are expected to thrive when they get healthy. The Golden Knights are +350, and the Wild are out at +900. Colorado is the +550 favorite to win the Stanley Cup, followed by Tampa and Vegas at +800, Florida and Toronto at +1000, and Carolina at +1500.