The Chicago Blackhawks will not be in the rosiest of moods tonight.
Currently on a three-game losing streak and having scored just two goals in their previous two games, the Blackhawks figure to be the ideal opponent for the Blue Jackets tonight. Looking to turn their season around, the Blue Jackets are coming off a week of practice full of learning and teaching from head coach Scott Arniel.
A week of meetings, video work and off-ice conditioning is in the past, Arniel said, and the focus will be putting the pieces together against a team that has a lot to prove, as well.
“I want to get into this game tonight and do the right things so we don’t have to so many of those (meetings),” Arniel said. “It gets old, but we had to do it. We looked at a little bit of what happened last week, and discussed as a group what we want to do moving forward.
“Is it going to be perfect tonight? Probably not, but I’d really like to see us play the right way for 60 minutes against a team that’s really talented and is going to throw everything they have at us.”
The key to beating the Blackhawks this season has been to get on the scoreboard before they do. Chicago is 5-0-1 when its scores the first goal, and 3-4-2 when the opposition opens the scoring. The Blackhawks are 0-2-1 when they trail after the first period.
Joel Quenneville is expected to start Corey Crawford in goal tonight. The last time these teams met, it was at United Center and backup Ray Emery earned a 5-2 victory over Allen York, in York's first career NHL start. Crawford is 1-2-0 lifetime against the Blue Jackets, with a 3.28 goals-against average and .909 save percentage.
MASON, BOLL IN
Arniel confirmed this morning that goaltender Steve Mason will start between the pipes for the Blue Jackets. In two home games prior to a 4-1 loss to Toronto on Nov. 3, Mason went 2-0-0 against the Red Wings and Ducks (0.76 goals-against average in that span) and played his best hockey of the season.
Mason is 6-4-2 in his career against the Blackhawks with a 3.21 goals-against average and .899 save percentage.
The Blue Jackets announced this morning that right wing Jared Boll has been activated off injured reserve, and Arniel said he will be back in the lineup tonight. READ THE PRESS RELEASE
SHUFFLING THE DECK
The Blue Jackets line combinations are likely to have a different look to them tonight. While Arniel did not reveal specifics, the addition of Mark Letestu earlier in the week affords extra flexibility among the forwards and some of the lines could be switched up.
It’s part of finding solutions, Arniel said, and pretty standard anytime a team is looking to get back on track.
“When you’re not winning, you’re trying to find some chemistry and see what works,” Arniel said. “You’re trying to line yourself up, and put some different looks together. It’s not like one line has been outstanding for us in this stretch.
“We’re trying to find some combinations that give us a spark, and that means you mean people in and out of some spots.”