|The Chicago Blackhawks are a formidable opponent regardless of the date on the calendar. Throw in a three-game losing streak and a frustrated group of players, and the Blue Jackets will have their hands full in tonight’s Central Division clash with their foes from the Windy City. |
It has been a rough ride of late for Joel Quenneville’s group. The Blackhawks started 6-1-2 in their first nine games and were sitting atop the Western Conference standings. The team has hit a small skid recently, starting to see things it did not previously.
A wild game in Tampa Bay against the Lightning saw Chicago lose a two-goal lead in the second period, leading to a 5-4 overtime defeat. That was the first of three straight losses for the Blackhawks, who have scored a total of two games in their last two games. Following a 6-2 drubbing at home to the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday, the Blackhawks were the first team to face the St. Louis Blues under new coach Ken Hitchcock.
Jaroslav Halak made 29 saves for the Blues in a 3-0 shutout win at Scottrade Center on Tuesday night. The recent stretch is not sitting well with either Quenneville or his players, who have been unseated atop the conference standings by the red-hot Dallas Stars.
One thing that has gone well for the Blackhawks is Patrick Kane moving to center ice. The 22-year-old played some center as a youngster, but made the move full-time early on this season and it’s paying dividends. Kane is the team’s leading scorer (four goals, 11 assists) in the first 15 games and has formed a lethal alliance with sniper Marian Hossa. The Slovakian winger leads the Blackhawks in goals (7) and had a stretch of five points in four games from Oct. 31 to Nov. 6.
Defenseman Duncan Keith returned to the lineup in St. Louis after missing the previous three games with an upper-body injury. He was his usual, steady self on the blue line in his first game back – playing 24:45 total and drawing a hefty amount of power-play time with his accurate shot.
In goal, the Blackhawks are expected to turn to Corey Crawford tonight at Nationwide Arena. In the only previous meeting between the two teams this season, backup Ray Emery got the start and earned a 5-2 win at United Center.
| || || |
|Prospal (5) ||Hossa (7) |
|Nash (7) ||Kane (11) |
|Nash, Prospal (11) ||Kane (15) |
|Dorsett (33) ||Carcillo (30) |
|MacKenzie (+4) ||Kane (+8) |
|Mason (2-10-1) |
|Crawford (6-4-2) |
|Mason (3.70) ||Crawford (2.68) |
|Mason (.869) ||Crawford (.908) || |
|• Tonight is the second meeting of six this season between the Blackhawks and Blue Jackets, and the first of three at Nationwide Arena. Columbus is 28-28-8 all-time against Chicago, including a 15-12-5 mark at home. |
• After winning back-to-back home games, Columbus dropped a 4-1 decision against Toronto last Thursday and will look to return to the win column tonight against the Blackhawks. The Blue Jackets had gone 2-2-0 in four games Oct. 25-30, but enters tonight’s contest following back-to-back losses.
• Chicago has endured its fair share of power-play struggles so far this season. The Blackhawks currently sit 30th in the NHL (5-for-57 overall) in power play efficiency. The Blue Jackets rank 29th in the NHL in power play percentage (9.2 percent).
• Kane has tallied seven points (two goals, five assists) over his last five games, and leads Chicago with 11 assists and 15 points in 15 games this season. His 11 helpers share 10th in the NHL. The Blackhawks are 3-0-1 this season when Kane delivers a multi-point effort and, over the course of his NHL career, the team is 63-8-11 on nights he registers two or more points.
• Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook recorded two blocked shots, one hit and one takeaway in 23:31 of ice time on Tuesday against the Blues. The British Columbia, native now ranks second in the NHL with 44 blocked shots this season, and shares 15th among league blue-liners with 31 hits.