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GAME DAY: Chicago

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets





The most impressive thing about the Chicago Blackhawks’ 4-0 start isn’t just the record, but how they are winning hockey games.

On opening night in Los Angeles, the Kings were raising their Stanley Cup banner amidst a swell of emotion inside STAPLES Center but it was quickly vaporized by a red-hot start by the Blackhawks. Chicago handily won that game by a 5-2 final, and then moved east to Phoenix for a Sunday night showdown with the Coyotes on their opening night.

No problem for the Blackhawks. It resulted in a 6-4 win for Joel Quenneville’s club, and a convincing win at that. The Coyotes found the same fate as many NHL teams when they tried to trade chances with Chicago’s high-octane offense, which has been jump-started by the return of Marian Hossa from a concussion. The Slovak sniper has teamed up with Patrick Kane to form one of the league’s most lethal duos, and with five goals in the first four games, Hossa is already on a torrid pace.

Wins over St. Louis and Dallas – the latter being a come-from-behind overtime road win on Thursday night – have made the Blackhawks the team to beat in the early going. Their goaltending has been steady, they’re scoring at will, and it looks like Duncan Keith is close to being back in top form after what could be considered a down year in 2011-12.

The most encouraging thing for the Blackhawks (and scariest for the league) is after building with their young stars into a Cup winner, there’s another wave about to crack the surface. Nick Leddy, a 21-year-old acquired via trade from Minnesota, is blossoming into a top-four defenseman who can play heavy minutes on the blue line. Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad are soon-to-be stars at forward and play the style of game to fit right in with Chicago’s superstars.

The Blue Jackets have a stern test ahead of them if they want to snap a three-game winless skid at Nationwide Arena tonight. After scoring just one goal in their previous two games, they will need the offense clicking in order to keep up with the Blackhawks quick-strike attack.

- Columbus is 28-33-8 all-time vs. Chicago (15-15-5 on home ice), and was 0-6-0 vs. the Blackhawks last season (0-3-0 on home ice).

- The Blackhawks have played three of their first four games on the road (3-0-0 in those games), and are 2-0-0 when scoring the first goal.

- Blue Jackets forward RJ Umberger's next assist will give him sole possession of third place in team history (currently tied with N. Zherdev, 105). Umberger's next game-winning goal will give him sole possession of third place in club history (currently tied with. G. Sanderson and J. Chimera, 12).

Nick Leddy


2011-12 STATS: 3-34-37, 82 GP

When the Blackhawks traded Cam Barker to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Kim Johnsson, they received a former first-round pick (Leddy) as part of the package. Seemingly frustrated with Leddy’s development, the Wild gave him a change of scenery in Chicago and he has made the most of it. Leddy is firmly part of the Blackhawks’ top four and is one of the purest puck-rushers on the club.

COLUMBUS: Cam Atkinson (lower body), day-to-day


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