BLUE JACKETS (5-12-3) at BLACKHAWKS (17-0-3)
TV: NHLN-US, FS-O, CSN-CH
Last 10: Columbus 2-6-2; Chicago 9-0-1
Season series: Third of four meetings between these Central Division rivals. The Blackhawks have already claimed a pair of one-goal victories. Jonathan Toews scored the game-winner in a 3-2 win in Chicago on Jan. 26, while Andrew Shaw had the only goal and Corey Crawford stopped 28 shots in a 1-0 win in Columbus on Feb. 24.
Big story: Can anything stop these Blackhawks? Injuries to key players, tough divisional road games, back-to-back situations -- whatever obstacles Chicago has faced over the first 20 games this season, they've managed to get at least a point out of every one. Will the underdog Blue Jackets be the ones to end the streak?
Blue Jackets: It's been another tough start in Columbus, which had a 5-13-2 record after 20 games last season. The Blue Jackets are looking to improve in virtually all aspects of their game, as their offense is in the bottom five of the NHL and their defense in the bottom 10. They're also just 2-8 on the road. On the other hand, the Jackets are one of only six remaining teams to have a perfect points percentage when leading after two periods. They trailed after 40 minutes on Tuesday, but got a late RJ Umberger goal and rallied for a point against Dallas in a 5-4 overtime defeat.
"Blocking a shot, picking up a man or making a big save … we couldn't get a big stop tonight," forward Mark Letestu told the Columbus Dispatch. "Four goals should be enough to win a hockey game. Defensively, we have to be better. Just in every way."
Blackhawks: It took 12 seconds from the opening faceoff for Toews to give Chicago all the offense it would need Thursday in St. Louis. The captain scored his first of two goals on the night before many at Scottrade Center had even found their seats, and the Hawks went on to a 3-0 victory. Shaw also tallied, and Marian Hossa had two assists. Crawford (six saves) left the game after the first period with what was being reported as an upper-body injury, but Ray Emery (15 saves) relieved and combined on the shutout.
"Everybody contributed," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We've had some good games, but that might have been the best."
Who's hot: Regardless of who's been in net for the Blackhawks this season, they've gotten top-flight play. Crawford (9-0-3) leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.46) and is second in save percentage (.943), while Emery (8-0-0) is seventh in both GAA (1.92) and save percentage (.931).
Injury report: Columbus forward Artem Anisimov (head) is expected to return to the lineup Friday. Forward Derick Brassard suffered an upper-body injury Tuesday that is expected to sideline him 1-2 weeks. Defenseman Jack Johnson (upper body) and James Wisniewski (foot) and forward Brandon Dubinsky (knee) are on injured reserve. … Crawford is day-to-day for Chicago. Forward Dave Bolland missed Thursday's game with an upper-body injury. Defenseman Steve Montador (concussion) and forward Rostislav Olesz (knee) are on injured reserve.
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