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The Chicago Blackhawks look to continue their recent success against the Columbus Blue Jackets when the Central Division rivals meet for the fourth time this season on Sunday.
Chicago (16-16-5) has won the last two meetings with Columbus (14-20-4) and three of four overall after dropping nine of the previous 13 matchups in the series.
The Blackhawks, however, are struggling lately.
They've alternated wins and losses in their last six games and are coming off a 5-3 home defeat to Boston on Friday. Chicago rallied to score three goals in the third period, but couldn't come back from a 4-0 deficit.
"We took it to them in the third period and I think that's the approach we want to take," Chicago goaltender Brian Boucher said. "But nevertheless you can't wait until the third to get it going."
Nikolai Khabibulin was pulled for the first time this season after allowing three goals on seven shots in the first period. Boucher replaced him at the start of the second and stopped 12 of 13 shots.
"The focus didn't seem to be there early," Chicago coach Denis Savard said. "We were undisciplined and soft on the puck. We had a couple of possessions where we just gave it up. We left Habby (Khabibulin) by himself after guys gave the puck away for no reason."
Although Boucher has just one win in 13 appearances this season, the Blackhawks could consider starting him in this contest. He has four wins, three ties and a 2.08 goals-against average in seven starts against Columbus, including a 1-0 victory on Nov. 12.
Chicago is last in the NHL with an 11.9 power-play percentage, and is 2-for-24 with the man advantage over the last five games. Columbus, meanwhile, has allowed at least one power-play goal in its last six games, giving up nine in that stretch.
The Blue Jackets allowed Minnesota to score three power-play goals in 11 opportunities in a 4-3 overtime loss on Friday.
"You can't continue to kill penalties and expect to win, especially on the road," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We just ran out of steam because it was back-to-back and we had to use a short bench because of that."
Columbus, which trails Chicago by five points in the division, has lost two in a row and is trying to avoid dropping three straight for the first time since a season-high eight-game skid from Nov. 10-24.
The Blackhawks lead the all-time series 16-12-2 with two ties, but have just six wins in 16 meetings at Columbus.
-- Associated Press