Chicago captured its first win of the season on Monday night, 3-1 over the previously unbeaten Edmonton Oilers on goals from Patrick Kane and Alex Nylander, plus a Brandon Saad empty netter after finding the iron twice earlier in the night. Corey Crawford stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced in a dominant performance from the Blackhawks netminder.
The Blue Jackets took a 3-2 win over Dallas at home on Wednesday night with Zach Werenski, Alexander Wennberg and Sonny Milano scoring. Wennberg's tally was his team-leading fourth point of the season (1G, 3A).
A year ago, the road team prevailed in both meetings between the two teams. Chicago took a 4-1 win in Columbus on Oct. 20 with a three-goal third period and Crawford stopping 37 of 38 shots. The Blue Jackets took a 5-2 win at the United Center on Feb. 16. Patrick Kane led the way with three goals and two assists in the season series.
With the energy of Monday's win fresh in mind, Chicago wants to keep their momentum rolling from what head coach Jeremy Colliton called a nearly-complete performance. Starting a stretch of seven games over the next 12 days, beginning on the right foot against Columbus is key.
"When you're going well, you love that rythym. That's what we'd like to do," Colliton said Thursday. "(If we) have another good performance Friday, then all of the sudden we've had three pretty good ones in a row and we can build some momentum. That's important. We really have to keep that positive feeling and improvement that we've had and hopefully we can put some points together."
The Blue Jackets come to town with momentum of their own, winners of two in a row and three of their last four - including Wednesday's 3-2 victory at home.
"They're going to work, they're going to defend hard. They still have a pretty good team," Colliton added. "They have a couple guys who are tough to play against and I think their mentality that they had last year that allowed them to go as far as they did in the playoffs, it's still there. It'll be a good test. We have to be ready."
The Blackhawks did not run line rushes in morning skate, but Colliton confirmed to reporters afterwards that he would use the same lineup as Monday's game against Edmonton, with Robin Lehner in goal against the Jackets.
"Everyone wants to play all the time," Colliton said of the decision to start Lehner after Crawford's strong performance. "We've had a little lighter schedule and we want both guys going because we're coming up to a stretch where we're going to play a lot of games, so we're going to need them both. Both guys feel pretty confident in their games and both of their last performances were good, so we're in a pretty good spot there."
Here's what the lines were against the Oilers:
DeBrincat - Toews - Caggiula Shaw - Strome - Kane Saad - Kampf - Kubalik Smith - Carpenter - Nylander
Keith - Murphy Maatta - Seabrook de Haan - Gustafsson