|No Jonathan Toews, no problem. That has been the motto for the Chicago Blackhawks in the 13 games played without their captain and one of their top offensive threats. Toews has missed significant time with an upper-body injury, but his teammates have picked up the slack and are 8-4-1 in his absence. Currently positioned in sixth place in the Western Conference standings, the Blackhawks are in a crucial stretch of their season and sit just four points behind Detroit and Nashville, the later holding home-ice advantage in the fourth spot. |
Chicago has endured its share of ups and downs since the All-Star break, including a dreadful nine-game losing streak that could have put the Blackhawks’ postseason hopes in jeopardy. Their response has been impressive, especially considering occasional goaltending struggles and missing Toews in the middle of the ice: the Blackhawks are 11-4-1 after the skid, and tonight at Nationwide Arena, they are seeking a season sweep of the Blue Jackets.
Also on the line is a potential four-game winning streak for the Blackhawks, who are coming off an impressive 5-2 win on Sunday at the United Center over the Washington Capitals. Goaltender Corey Crawford, recently named the NHL’s second star of the week, is expected to start in goal yet again for Chicago and will seek his fifth win of the season against Columbus.
Not only have the Blackhawks strung together three straight wins at a pivotal juncture, but they’ve done so by defeating some of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League. Their last three victories have come against St. Louis (4-3 at home), Dallas (4-1 on the road) and over the weekend against the Capitals, who won a 5-3 thriller in Detroit last night as well.
The Blue Jackets, fresh off a 2-1 shootout win against the Calgary Flames on Sunday night, will turn to Steve Mason once again. He was stellar in relief of Curtis Sanford, who left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury.
| || || |
|Nash (24) ||Toews (29) |
|Prospal (33) ||Hossa (43) |
|Nash (47) ||Hossa (71) |
|Dorsett (194) ||Mayers (89) |
|MacKenzie (+4) ||Sharp (+24) |
|Mason (13-23-3) |
|Crawford (25-16-5) |
|Sanford (2.60) ||Emery (2.73) |
|Sanford (.911) ||Emery (.903) || |
|• The Blue Jackets snapped a four-game winless skid with Sunday’s shootout win at Calgary. Prior to the skid, the club had a four-game winning streak Mar. 1-8, the first time the club has won four straight games since Nov. 17-24, 2010, when the club won five straight games. The Blue Jackets have gone 10-10-1 the last 21 games. |
• Nikita Nikitin has goals in four of the last 14 games after scoring his fifth of the season Sunday at Calgary. The goals come after he went the previous 20 games without a goal. He has 3-6-9 the last 17 games after being held to 0-1-1 the previous seven games. He has set career highs in goals (5), assists (18), points (23) and games played (51).fter being held to 2-3-5 the first 24 games of the season.
• Steve Mason won four straight games Mar. 1-8 for first time since winning five-straight Feb. 13-25, 2011. He stopped 28-of-29 shots Sunday at Calgary and is now 8-4-1 with a 2.69 GAA and .922 SV% his last 12 games after going 1-7-1 with a 3.73 GAA and .880 SV% the previous 10 games. He has also made 30 or more saves in 10 of his last 14 starts.
• Tonight marks the sixth and final meeting overall and third of three at Nationwide Arena this season between the Blue Jackets and Blackhawks. Columbus is 28-32-8 all-time against Chicago, including a 15-14-5 mark at Nationwide.