|Unlike other notable NHL playoff teams from a year ago, the Chicago Blackhawks have not had to deal with a slow start to their season or any prolonged losing streaks in their first 35 games. They have played one of the heaviest schedules to this point, but started fast out of the gate (7-2-2 in October) and have used a recent winning streak to catapult up the Western Conference standings. |
With 48 points, the Blackhawks entered the Christmas break as the league’s top team and are one point ahead of the defending champion Boston Bruins. They have won four straight games at the United Center and tonight’s game against the Blue Jackets is the second contest of a five-game homestand. As they hold a four-point advantage over the surging St. Louis Blues in the Central Division, the Blackhawks are in a position to strengthen their No. 1 spot but will face tough opponents in Los Angeles, Detroit and Edmonton later in the week.
The Blue Jackets entered the third period of an Oct. 29 game in Chicago firmly entrenched in a battle for two points, but the Blackhawks rallied on the heels of a monster game from Viktor Stalberg to win 5-2 in Allen York’s first career start. Chicago was also the opponent at Nationwide Arena just two weeks later as the Blue Jackets were searching for answers following a loss in Philadelphia. Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel went back to the drawing board with their play in all three zones and though Columbus lost the game, many of the things they worked on carried over to produce a solid stretch of hockey.
As they look to get back on track tonight and start a new chapter of their season, the Blue Jackets are looking at a Blackhawks squad getting balanced scoring across the lineup.
Already the league’s top scoring club, Chicago is benefitting from Marian Hossa’s points streak (12 points in last 7 GP) and star winger Patrick Kane has dished out 25 assists.
The hot hand in goal of late has been Ray Emery, who won the backup job in training camp from young goaltender Alexander Salak. The veteran Emery has posted a 9-2-2 record so far this season.
| || || |
|Carter, Nash (10) ||Toews (20) |
|Prospal (20) ||Kane (25) |
|Prospal (27) ||Hossa (38) |
|Dorsett (73) ||Carcillo (60) |
|MacKenzie (+7) ||Hossa (+21) |
|Sanford (5-6-3) |
|Crawford (13-7-2) |
|Sanford (2.66) ||Emery (2.54) |
|Sanford (.908) ||Emery (.908) || |
|• Columbus opened a stretch that has the club playing four of five and eight of 10 on the road Dec. 18 at St. Louis. The road games come after the Jackets played five-straight at home. Columbus looks to rebound from a recent stretch that has seen the club go 1-5-1 its last seven games. |
• Jeff Carter scored his third career hat trick with all three goals coming in the span of 3:18 in the first period of last Thursday’s game at Nashville. It is the fastest three goals scored by a Blue Jackets player in team history. The previous mark was 9:43 set by Geoff Sanderson on Mar. 29, 2003 at Calgary.
• Tonight marks the third of six meetings overall and second of three meetings at United Center this season between the Blue Jackets and Blackhawks. Columbus is 28-29-8 all-time against Chicago, including a 13-16-3 mark at United Center. The Blackhawks have won five of the last six meetings between the clubs.
• Rick Nash recorded his fifth multi-point game of the season with two assists Thursday at Nashville. The assists were his first in five games since recording a helper Dec. 8 vs. Nashville. He has collected 3-5-8 the last 10 games and 6-7-13 the last 15 games after being held to 1-3-4 the previous 10 games.
• Columbus has power play goals in five of the last six games (8-of-26, 30.8 percent) after going 1-for-22 (4.5 percent) the previous six games.
RW - #81
• The crafty sniper has certainly found a home in the Windy City after signing a 12-year deal two summers ago. He’s currently Chicago’s leading scorer and started his season with a five-game goal scoring streak from Oct. 15-25.
• Hossa is no stranger to facing the Blue Jackets; in 24 games against Columbus, he has recorded 15 goals and 13 assists.
D Radek Martinek (concussion); indefinitely
LW Kristian Huselius (lower body); indefinitely