Unlike the premise for the popular comedy show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”, in hockey, the points do matter.
The Columbus Blue Jackets (11-16-3) are riding a six-game standings points streak after their 5-4 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes Thursday. The Jackets would like to collect the full two points from the Chicago Blackhawks (12-13-5), who fly into town for a 7 p.m. match-up Saturday in Nationwide Arena.
Before Thursday Columbus had won an impressive five straight, surrendering only four goals in five games.
Several CBJ forwards have gotten into an offensive rhythm over the team’s points streak, perhaps none more so than Anson Carter. “A.C.” has posted 3-6-9 in the past six games overall, and if he scores a point in the next three games, he would tie Rick Nash’s club record for nine straight games with a point.
Dan Fritsche has joined the offensive outburst, going 4-5-9 over the six-game span. Nash notched a goal and two assists in Thursday’s loss at Phoenix and two goals in last Sunday’s home thumping of the Ottawa Senators. David Vyborny is working on a two-game goal streak and has six points in the past four games.
Ron Hainsey had his best game of the season the last time he played at home, scoring a goal and dishing out two assists. He also added an assist Thursday in Phoenix.
Chicago comes into Columbus having won two of their last three. Before dropping a 3-2 decision to the Detroit Red Wings Thursday, the Blackhawks had accumulated a seven-game point streak. After struggling early, goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin has toughened his play by allowing only nine goals in the past four games. The Blackhawks also pose a formidable scoring threat with young forward Martin Havlat leading the attack. Recently signed veteran and former all-star Peter Bondra has given Chicago a boost, too. Bondra will enter Saturday's game sitting on 499 goals for his career.
Ken Hitchcock, who has jumpstarted the Jackets to a 6-3-1 record in his first 10 games behind the bench, also has had success coaching against Chicago. He is 15-7-7 lifetime against the Blackhawks, including a 4-0-0 mark when he coached the Philadelphia Flyers.
In two meetings with the Blackhawks this season, Columbus is 1-1-0. Neither game happened in Nationwide Arena, a home-ice advantage the Jackets will need to capitalize on. Six of the nine remaining games in December are at home.
Saturday’s game will have its share of pre- and post-game activities. As part of “Nationwide Night,” before the game fans can enjoy ice carving on the Front Street Plaza, a holiday choir, free hot chocolate and live entertainment. FSN Ohio will be broadcasting live on the Front Street Plaza beginning at 6:30 p.m. The first 10,000 fans attending the game will receive a Blue Jackets scroll banner. After the game Blue Jackets players will be positioned around the arena concourse to sign autographs and spread some holiday cheer.
As always, Huntington Green Seats will be available for tonight's game and every game during the 2006-07 season. The Huntington Green Seats are 250 seats that are priced at $10 for every home game this season and are available only at the Nationwide Arena Ticket Office two hours prior to game time.
To purchase tickets to tonight's game, click here.