The Columbus Blue Jackets put together another impressive showing last night against the Los Angeles Kings. They got behind early in the early stages of the game, but Elvis Merzlikins was able to show up big for the Blue Jackets. When Joonas Korpisalo hit the shelf with a knee injury, there wasn’t much confidence that Merzlikins was going to be able to hold up. He’s held up and then some for the Blue Jackets. Joonas is not the only major injury that the Blue Jackets have had to deal with this team. Their roster has one of the longest injury reports in the NHL, though John Tortorella has done a tremendous job getting the most out of what he has to work with.
It’s crazy how fast things can change in sports. There weren’t many Blue Jackets’ fans feeling confident in Tortorella during a slide in late October and early November. The Blue Jackets were losers in seven of eight games, and the immediate future was looking pretty bleak, especially with the injuries beginning to pile up high. All things considered, though, the Blue Jackets have exceeded expectations with a record of 20-15-8 going into Tuesday night. I don’t believe they reach the playoffs, but they are a bubble playoff team at the moment in the Eastern Conference.
Columbus are winners in eight of their previous eleven contests. Any notion of a letdown in Los Angeles last night was put to bed in the 4-2 win. The Ducks are hoping to take advantage of two straight teams playing back-to-back games in this one. They defeated the Nashville Predators in a long shootout on Sunday evening by a score of 5-4. The win was responsible for getting Peter Laviolette canned by the Predators. Laviolette was on life support with the Predators, and he had to sweep the LA and Anaheim trip to stay alive. He passed the first test, but his team looked asleep for two periods against the Ducks.
Tortorella has to avoid the trap that the Predators fell into the other day. It can be easy to overlook the Ducks just like the Predators did. Yet to be decided is who will start in net for the Blue Jackets. They could go to Merzlikins again, or opt to give fellow Latvian, Matiss Kivlenieks, his first NHL start in Anaheim. Kivlenieks was called up as an emergency option following the injury to Korpisalo. Korpisalo will be out 4-6 weeks, so he figures to see game time eventually. It’d make sense to give him the nod against the Ducks in Anaheim, but we will see. Head below for our free Blue Jackets vs. Ducks pick.
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Anaheim Ducks Betting Odds:
Blue Jackets vs. Ducks Prediction:
Kivlenieks didn’t expect to get a call from the Blue Jackets to get to Columbus. However, all it can take is an injury to a goaltender to see time in the NHL. He was buried behind Sergei Bovrovsky, Korpisalo, and Merzlikins on the depth chart last season. Fast forward to 2020 and Kivlenieks is suiting up as the backup to Merzlikins in the NHL.
Kivlenieks struggled mightily last season, having posted a 3.71 GAA and 0.873 save percentage with the Cleveland Monsters. He’s improved in 2019-20, though Kivlenieks doesn’t look like a guy who is ready to be an everyday NHLer. The 23-year-old boasts a 3.04 GAA and 0.894 save percentage in 15 starts with Cleveland this season.
If Tortorella decides to go with Merzlikins on a back-to-back, then they’re getting a hot goaltender who has allowed 2 or fewer goals in three of his past four outings. In any event, it hasn’t always been that easy for Merzlikins between the pipes. He owns a 2.86 GAA and 0.908 save percentage entering Anaheim.
As the full-time starter without Korpisalo in the lineup, Merzlikins has been much more comfortable in the crease. Despite the win last night for the Blue Jackets, they typically haven’t looked that good on the road this season. The Jackets have notched 2.6 goals per game, while allowing 3.05 goals per game as a visiting team.
Merzlikins is young, but it’s tough to see him getting four starts in six days, including a back-to-back on the road. Tortorella may very well see the Ducks as the perfect opportunity to give Kivlenieks his first taste of the NHL. Either way, whether they go with Merzlikins or Korpisalo, this looks like a letdown spot for the Blue Jackets.
They have not had favourable outings against the Ducks in the past couple of seasons. Note that the Ducks have beaten the Blue Jackets in four straight games, with a 2-1 win for Anaheim taking place in October. Also keep in mind that the Ducks are 4-1 against the Jackets in their previous four trips to Anaheim. They likely don’t do much better after a stop at the Staples Center 24 hours ago. If Kivlenieks gets the nod here, the Ducks are a stronger play tonight, but they look like a solid option regardless.