The Chicago Blackhawks are serious about putting a decade's worth of frustration behind them.
After their biggest offensive output in more than 3 1/2 years, Chicago will try to win consecutive games to start a season for the first time in 10 years when it meets the Columbus Blue Jackets at the United Center on Saturday night.
The Blackhawks (1-0-0) have won three of their last four home openers and are 32-28-19 all-time in their first home contest. Chicago hasn't had two wins to begin a season since 1996-97.
Riding a five-game road losing streak heading into its first game of this season, Chicago posted an impressive 8-6 win at Nashville on Thursday. The Blackhawks, whose 211 goals last season were second-fewest in the Western Conference, hadn't scored eight goals in a game since March 9, 2003 against Boston.
Chicago's two biggest offseason acquisitions paid immediate dividends in their debuts. Martin Havlat, acquired in a three-team deal, had two goals and two assists, and Michal Handzus - picked up from Philadelphia for leading scorer Kyle Calder - added a goal and assist.
"(Havlat) did everything we hoped he would," defenseman Adrian Aucoin said. "I was really impressed with not only him but Handzus. All of the new guys played great."
Second-year coach Trent Yawney, though, was pleased his team twice rallied back - including from a two-goal deficit less than five minutes into the game.
"There was no quit in them, and they deserve a lot of credit," he said.
The Blackhawks finished with just 26 wins last year - the third consecutive season in which they had 30 or fewer victories. They also missed the postseason for the eighth time in nine years.
"Last year we didn't really have the firepower and it seemed like we didn't have the mental toughness. If we got down, we stayed down," Aucoin said.
Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin will need to improve greatly in his second season with Chicago. In 27 home starts, he was 12-11-3 with a 3.01 goals-against average. On the road, he started 23 games and was 5-15-3 with a 3.73 GAA.
He was 1-2-1 with a 3.49 GAA in four starts against the Blue Jackets.
Columbus (0-0-1) lost its third straight opening-night contest on Thursday, falling 3-2 in overtime to Vancouver.
New starting goaltender Pascal LeClaire carried a shutout into the middle of the third period before giving up goals to Brendan Morrison and Daniel Sedin - who scored again 31 seconds into the extra session.
"They were great," Columbus coach Gerard Gallant said of the Canucks. "For the last 40 minutes, there was only one team playing tonight."
Mark Hartigan and David Vyborny scored power-play goals for Columbus, which has four losses, one win and a tie in six opening-night games.
Rick Nash assisted on one of the goals, and will try to continue his success against Chicago.
The top overall draft pick in 2002, Nash has a four-game points streak against the Blackhawks, tallying three goals and three assists in that span.
Overall, his 10 goals, nine assists and 19 career points versus Chicago are his bests against any opponent.
|Mar 30 '07||CBJ 1 at CHI 3||M. Havlat|
|Mar 20 '07||CHI 2 at CBJ 5||F. Modin|
|Feb 11 '07||CHI 5 at CBJ 4||P. Bondra|
|Jan 16 '07||CBJ 5 at CHI 4 - OT||J. Chimera|
|Dec 31 '06||CHI 1 at CBJ 3||M. Malhotra|
|Dec 16 '06||CHI 6 at CBJ 4||B. Smolinski|
|Nov 12 '06||CBJ 0 at CHI 1||L. Kukkonen|
|Oct 07 '06||CBJ 5 at CHI 4||D. Westcott|