Jets to lay down Western marker

The NHL season is set to resume after the Christmas break with some teams perhaps welcome of the time off, while others may have rued a possible momentum stopper going into the second half of the campaign.

Tampa Bay Lightning remain outright favourites at 5.00 to lift the Stanley Cup with Toronto Maple Leafs next best at 6.00 after strong starts – these two sides, who both play in the same division, are the top two in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy.

Jets can confirm Calgary superiority

Winnipeg Jets are now priced as third favourites at 10.00 for overall glory, enjoying a fine run of form pre-Christmas to open up a four-point lead in the Central Division, having played a game less than nearest rivals Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche.

There is no time for complacency for Paul Maurice and his players though, as they return to action in a mouth-watering clash with Calgary Flames, pitting the top two sides in the Western Conference together with the Flames surprising many with their position.

There is no doubt that Calgary have the offensive talent with the likes of Johnny Gaudreau (48 points) and Sean Monahan (21 goals) to test any team, and they do go into this match-up with the knowledge of a 6-3 home victory over the Jets at the Saddledome back in November, in their only previous meeting this season.

It would not be a massive surprise if the Flames upset the odds at 2.20 to pick up the two points and close the gap in the West, but the Jets are a dominant force in front of their own fans with only the league-leading Lightning having won more on home territory.

With the likes of rising star Patrik Laine (23 goals), Mark Scheifele (49 points) and Blake Wheeler (43 assists) in their ranks, the Jets can justify 1.71 favouritism and stamp their authority on the conference.

Avs looking to take down Vegas

There has been a lot to like about Colorado Avalanche this season with Mikko Rantanen still leading the NHL’s point-scoring charts, while Nathan MacKinnon is third, and only two teams having scored more than the Avs’ tally of 129 goals so far.

Defensively, Colorado have not been so strong though, leaking 115 goals with only eight teams having conceded more, a surprising number given they are third in the Central Division and fifth in the Western Conference.

The holiday break came at a good time for the Avs as they hit a horror run of form, losing six of their last 10 games before Christmas, suffering back-to-back shock losses to strugglers Chicago and Arizona in their last two matches.

The fixture list has perhaps not been too kind to a team in a slump, as they return to action against last season’s Stanley Cup runners-up, Vegas Golden Knights, at the T-Mobile Arena.

Vegas have perhaps not quite hit the heights of last term and did make a slow start this time around, but they have made positive strides of late and have climbed to third in the Pacific Division, just three points behind Calgary, albeit having played two games more.

There are still obvious problems for Vegas as they struggle on the road, winning nine and losing 12 away from home, but they appear to be a different beast at the T-Mobile Arena (11-3-3).

It is no surprise they have been installed as the 1.68 favourites to secure the win, but the break might just have done the Avs the world of good and at 2.20, they could be worth chancing to rediscover their better form.

Ducks can bounce back in Shark Tank

Two teams who looked like they needed a break to regroup go head-to-head at the SAP Center, as the San Jose Sharks host Pacific Division rivals Anaheim Ducks, both still very much in contention to usurp Calgary at the top.

However, neither side was in the best of form before Christmas, so will be using this clash to kick-start their season going into the second half.

San Jose’s record at the Shark Tank looks impressive (11-4-4,) but this match represents the last match of a four-game home stand, and they have lost their previous three.

Going down to Winnipeg is of course not the biggest surprise but losing to struggling sides LA Kings and Arizona Coyotes, albeit both in overtime, is and Anaheim will be looking to capitalise.

Erik Karlsson is still suspended for the hosts, another bonus for Anaheim, although the Ducks will be looking to snap a three-game losing streak themselves, as they try to rediscover their early-season form.

Despite their disappointing run, Anaheim look good value at 2.50 to emerge victorious, considering the away side in this fixture has won eight times in the last 10 meetings, and both times this campaign.

The Ducks won 5-2 in San Jose in the season opener and although the Sharks (1.57) gained revenge at the end of October at the Honda Center, the price of another way success seems too big to ignore.