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GAME DAY: Chicago

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets





For the second time in less than a week, the Blue Jackets have an opportunity to put a halt to the Blackhawks' record-setting streak at the United Center.

After defeating the St. Louis Blues in an impressive 3-0 road win last night, Chicago comes back to face a Blue Jackets club that is sure to be in a foul mood following a 5-4 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars earlier in the week. The Blackhawks, by the way, are still on the same roll as they were Sunday night, extending their unbeaten (in regulation) streak to 20 games to start this truncated 2013 NHL season.

In the last meeting between these two clubs, the Blue Jackets played a smart, calculated game against the Blackhawks and had a bevy of chances to draw even and win the game. There were some missed open nets, failed power plays and a lack of "bearing down" on those scoring chances -- which most often results in struggles on the scoresheet. It was a 1-0 loss for Columbus and the game-winner didn't come until the closing minutes of the second period; one defensive breakdown was all Chicago needed to do the damage, and it was a quick pass from behind the net by Bryan Bickell to spot Andrew Shaw all alone in front of Steve Mason.

That's all the Blackhawks need to make teams pay, and their opportunistic nature is something that Todd Richards has talked about as being a need for his club. The Blue Jackets have worked hard to force teams into mistakes, but when they generate turnovers, the puck isn't finding the back of the net. Richards said Chicago isn't afraid of trading chances, either: if you get four chances and they get four chances, they like their odds of scoring on a greater percentage of those chances than their opponent.

If history tells us one thing, it's that tonight's game will not be an easy one for the Blackhawks. Both prior meetings with the Blue Jackets this season have been tightly-contested, one-goal decisions that could have easily gone either way. A questionable disallowed goal on Jan. 26 at Nationwide Arena wiped out a tying goal for Columbus in the second period (eventually a 3-2 final) and just last weekend, the Blackhawks escaped with a 1-0 win as Columbus put on a late push.

Ray Emery appears to be the starter in net for Chicago tonight as Corey Crawford left last night's game with an upper body injury. He's considered day-to-day.

- Chicago's goaltending tandem has been a big reason why the streak is still alive. Crawford leads the NHL in GAA (1.46) and Emery is a perfect 8-0-0 with a GAA of 1.92, which is seventh-best in the league.

- The Blue Jackets were perfect on the PK for the fourth straight game on Tuesday, killing off the only minor penalty assessed to the team all night. Columbus has killed off 11 consecutive penalties dating back to Feb. 18 and now ranks ninth in the NHL with a PK efficiency rate of 83.8 percent.

- Mark Letestu dished out a pair of assists on Tuesday to record his second multi-point game of the season. He also won a game-high 10 face-offs and finished the night with a plus/minus rating of +2.

- Columbus seeks its first win over the Blackhawks since Feb. 18, 2011, which also came at the United Center.

Niklas Hjalmarsson


2013 STATS: 1-3-4, 20 GP

The Blackhawks have watched Hjarlmasson develop into one of the NHL's better stay-at-home, rugged blueliners since they drafted him with a fourth-round pick in 2005. The 25-year-old Swede has paired up with a fellow countryman in Johnny Oduya, who came over at the trade deadline last season from Winnipeg, and formed a solid shutdown tandem for coach Joel Quenneville.

COLUMBUS: Brandon Dubinsky (knee sprain), on IR; James Wisniewski (broken foot), on IR; Derick Brassard (upper body), day-to-day; Jack Johnson (shoulder), on IR

CHICAGO: Dave Bolland (upper body); Steve Montador (concussion), on IR; Rostislav Olesz (knee), on IR

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