Blackhawks-Blue Jackets Preview
GAME: Chicago Blackhawks (13-18-3) at Columbus Blue Jackets (9-25-1).
TIME: Monday, 7 p.m. EST.
Trying to bounce back from their most disheartening loss of the season will be difficult for the Chicago Blackhawks. A matchup against the league's worst team may make that task a little easier.
Chicago will try to avoid its fourth loss in a row when it meets the Columbus Blue Jackets, losers of six straight and owners of a league-low 19 points.
The Blackhawks have dropped six of 13 one-goal decisions this season, but the latest loss was the hardest to stomach. Nikolai Khabibulin allowed two goals in the final 39 seconds of regulation before Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk scored the game-winner with one second left in overtime in a 3-2 loss Friday to the Red Wings.
Khabibulin - a disappointment in his first season with the 'Hawks after leading the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2003-04 - gave up the game-winner while rookie defenseman Duncan Keith was serving a tripping penalty.
Chicago is averaging a league-high 22:34 per game in penalties, nearly 3 1/2 minutes more than the second-place Los Angeles Kings.
"I expect the worst - not when it comes to outcome - but when it comes to penalties," first-year coach Trent Yawney said.
Chicago may get a boost with the return of center Tuomo Ruutu, who has resumed practicing with the team. Ruutu, out since mid-October with a back injury, has a goal and an assist in seven games this season. He led Chicago with 23 goals in 2003-04.
A loss Monday would equal Columbus' longest losing streak of the season set from Nov. 11-25. The Blue Jackets lost their sixth straight game, 5-4 Friday to the Nashville Predators.
"We seem to find a way to lose this year. But we definitely had a chance to win," Blue Jackets coach Gerard Gallant said.
Columbus has not scored more than four goals in a game this season and has managed a league-low 72 goals overall despite getting unexpected production from rookie left wing Jaroslav Balastik who has three goals in his last two games.
The Blue Jackets have won five of the last seven meetings with the Blackhawks.
STANDINGS: Blackhawks - 29 points, 3rd place, 22 PB, Central Division. Blue Jackets - 19 points, 5th place, 32 PB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Blackhawks - Mark Bell, 14 goals; Tyler Arnason, 17 assists; Bell and Arnason, 27 points; Todd Simpson, 97 PIM. Blue Jackets - Nikolai Zherdev, 9 goals; David Vyborny, 14 assists and 21 points; Jody Shelley, 71 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 25): Blackhawks - Power play: 14.1 percent (28 for 199), 28th in NHL. Penalty killing: 84.0 percent (225 for 268), 9th. Blue Jackets - Power play: 12.2 percent (25 for 204), 30th. Penalty killing: 82.6 percent (204 for 247), 12th (tied).
GOALTENDERS: Blackhawks - Khabibulin (11-16-2, 0 SO, 3.33 GAA); Craig Anderson (2-2-1, 4.13). Blue Jackets - Marc Denis (4-14-0, 3.36); Pascal Leclaire (2-8-1, 3.97).
SEASON SERIES: Blue Jackets, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Oct. 9, Blue Jackets, 3-2; At Chicago, former Blackhawk defenseman Bryan Berard had a goal and an assist for Columbus. Pavel Vorobiev scored twice for Chicago.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blackhawks - 6-12-2 on the road; Blue Jackets - 6-11-0 at home.