CHICAGO — The Blue Jackets don’t have fond memories of their last visit to the United Center, a lopsided 6-1 loss on Mar. 6, 2014. But the good news is that they have some good vibes going on the road right now, having won six straight entering tonight’s game.
They’ll do battle with a Blackhawks team coming off a four-game road trip that ended with a thud. Chicago dropped a 4-1 decision in Philadelphia on Wednesday to close out a 2-2-0 trip that included wins in New York and Carolina, however, the Blackhawks are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games despite not playing their best hockey.
Don’t think the Blue Jackets aren’t aware of that.
“Our first 10 minutes are really important, but it’s also our whole game,” said Nick Foligno. “It has to be. They’re such a good structural team that you have to be on your game all game long, or else they’ll just pick you apart. They’ll wait for their chances and then they’ll strike; they’re a team that plays really well at home so we have to find a way to play well at the start, keep the momentum in our favor and carry it through the whole game.
“If we do that, we’ll give ourselves a real good chance to win.”
And despite the Blue Jackets’ recent penchant for coming back in games and making a few dramatic rallies over the last stretch, coach Todd Richards said there’s a little less hope for that against a team like the Blackhawks.
“You don’t want to be down too many times because this league is too good and it’s too hard to battle back,” Richards said. “The guys have done a good job of finding ways, scoring a big goal to get some emotion back into the game, or maybe it’s the power play taking over. (When that happens) there’s some confidence.”
A BIG BOOST OF ENERGY
The Blue Jackets have not had Boone Jenner and Brandon Dubinsky in the lineup at the same time very often this season (only five games, to be exact), and it has robbed them of two of their major energy sources.
Their hard-skating, aggressive forechecking style is catalyzed by players like Dubinsky and Jenner, but injuries have limited their availability all season long.
Tonight, Richards is looking forward to seeing them both on the ice and also what it can do for his team.
“They’re both tenacious, relentless in how they play the game,” Richards said. “They both bring some emotion. When you’re sometimes flat — which does happen — they’re able to drag some guys into the game and into the fight as far as elevating some emotion.
"I’m expecting, since Brandon’s been out, some excitement to play and you’re playing Chicago against the Blackhawks. This building is fun, but you better be ready. Be ready to compete, ready to skate…because if you aren’t committed for 60 minutes, this team will step up and get you.”
Here are the Blue Jackets’ new-look forward lines for tonight: Jenner-Johansen-Atkinson, Dubinsky-Anisimov-Foligno, Hartnell-Karlsson-Dano, Tropp-Letestu-Morin. No changes to the defense pairings from Tuesday’s game.
Sergei Bobrovsky starts in net opposite Corey Crawford for the Blackhawks.