NHL season is back and more unusual than ever.
The Nashville Predators enter this reimagined 2021 season on Jan. 14 with a home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
While new rules, regulations, and divisions abound, sportsbooks expect the Preds to begin the year with a win.
2020-21 NHL season adjustments
The last pandemic to upend a professional hockey season was the Spanish flu during the 1919 Stanley Cup Finals.
Now, the league enters its second COVID-19-altered season. The NHL adjusted last year’s playoffs following almost five months of postponed games.
The league revealed a modified 2020-21 season schedule in late December, just weeks before players hit the ice.
The modified schedule eliminates all preseason exhibition events. Training camps, on the other hand, opened Jan. 3, permitting an attendance of 36 skaters and unlimited goalies per team.
Instead of an 82-game season ending in June, this year’s 56-game season will conclude in July.
The season has been adjusted to limit team travel and eliminate travel across the United States-Canada border. In order to accomplish this, the league reimagined divisions in the North, West, Central and East.
Canadian NHL teams comprise the North division entirely this season.
Nashville’s original Central Division included teams like the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and Winnipeg Jets. Now, the Preds are grouped with opponents including the Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars and reigning Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lighting.
Teams will only play divisional games this season, facing each division rival eight or more times. To further limit team travel and cross-contamination, teams will face off against an opponent in consecutive games.
With no league bubble in place as originally proposed, the NHL established strict regulations to reduce the potential impact of the virus.
Teams must disclose when a player has tested positive for COVID-19. Any positive player must then adhere to isolation guidelines. A cardiologist and team physician must also clear a player before they can resume play.
Teammates that have been in close contact with a positive player, yet test negative and are asymptomatic, may remain on the active roster.
During road games, all transportation will be team-provided and players are not permitted to congregate at restaurants or bars. Instead, each player must eat meals at the team’s hotel and receives his own hotel room.
Games will take place in a team’s home arena as usual, though fan attendance is left to the discretion of each individual team.
Some teams, like the Dallas Stars, welcome limited attendance. Many others, like the Nashville Predators, are opting for an empty arena.
Consequently, fans must find alternate ways to participate in hockey season. Now that sports betting is legal in Tennessee, a new method of engagement has emerged when in-person attendance is no longer an option.
2020-21 Nashville Predators odds
In preparation for the upcoming NHL season, DraftKings partnered with the Predators in mid-December, becoming the team’s official sports betting partner and daily fantasy sports provider.
Individual game lines are not yet active on DraftKings, though action is open for team futures and player futures.
Initial lines at FanDuel have the Preds as 1.5-point favorites for the first game of the season.
|COL Blue Jackets||+1.5 (-240)||+120||O 5.5 (-105)|
|NSH Predators||-1.5 (+200)||-140||U 5.5 (-115)|
Odds of the Predators walking away Central Division winners are +800, while the Lightning sit at +125.
|Team||Central Division Winner Odds|
|CBJ Blue Jackets||+900|
|DET Red Wings||+5000|
As far as playoffs go, a 16-team, best-of-seven format will be followed as usual.
Each division’s top-four teams qualify for the playoffs and then face off during the first few rounds. The four teams that move on to the Semifinal – traditionally known as the Conference Final – are then seeded by their regular season point total.
With this divisional realignment in play, two teams traditionally from the same conference could now theoretically face off against each other in the Stanley Cup Final.
Odds of the Preds making the playoffs are -134 at DraftKings. The team is nestled in 13th position for claiming the 2020-21 Stanley Cup at +2800.
The Colorado Avalanche lead the charge in the Stanley Cup prediction with +700 odds.
Bettors can expect Tennessee sportsbooks to roll out the NHL promos as the season nears.