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Blackhawks open up season series vs. Blue Jackets

by Brian Hunter /
BLUE JACKETS (1-8-1) at BLACKHAWKS (5-2-2)


Season Series:
First of six meetings this season between Central Division rivals. The Blackhawks took four of six on the 2010-11 schedule and Patrick Sharp was a lethal scorer with a series-leading 7 goals. Derick Brassard paced the Blue Jackets with 4 goals.

Big Story: As October draws to a close, Chicago is where it expected to be, challenging for first place in both the division and the Western Conference. The exact opposite is true for Columbus. Even if the Blue Jackets' goal to get back to the playoffs might have been deemed a bit lofty by some, no one could have expected after their offseason moves that they would have just a single victory and 3 points after their first 10 games of the season. There are still 72 games to play, but the Jackets have to start climbing the mountain now.

Team Scope:

Blue Jackets:
Among the myriad of struggles Columbus has encountered this season, its play on the road has been a big one. The Blue Jackets are still without a point away from Nationwide Arena; at 0-5-0 they're the only team that hasn't at least gotten something via an overtime or shootout loss. Coming off a rousing, 4-1 home win over the Red Wings that lifted everyone's spirits, the Jackets made a bid Thursday to put together their first positive streak of the season by rallying from a 2-0 deficit in Buffalo on goals by Vinny Prospal and Fedor Tyutin, only to fall 4-2 on a pair of late scores by the Sabres.

"We can't buy a break," defenseman James Wisniewski said. "If we cut down the number of mistakes, we are going to win more than we lose. We make three mistakes tonight and the puck's in the back of the net."

Offense generally hasn't been hard to come by this season for Chicago, which is ranked in the top 10 with an average of 2.89 goals per game, but the well ran completely dry in Carolina on Friday night. The Blackhawks were blanked 3-0, losing in regulation for just the second time in nine efforts. Goalie Corey Crawford made 30 saves and kept them within a goal headed into the third period. He was absolved of any blame by coach Joel Quenneville, who wasn't very pleased with the rest of the team.

"We got dominated in all areas of the game. We weren't very good tonight," Quenneville said. "They were a more determined team, and it was clear from the outset. ... I didn't like how we played."

Who's Hot: Antoine Vermette has a four-game points streak for the Blue Jackets, assisting on a goal in each game. … Marian Hossa had goals in five consecutive games but was held off the board along with the rest of the Blackhawks on Friday.

Injury Report:
The lengthy list of Columbus injuries includes defensemen Marc Methot (broken thumb) and Radek Martinek (concussion), forwards Kristian Huselius (pectoral surgery), Jared Boll (broken thumb) and Jeff Carter (broken foot) and goaltenders Mark Dekanich (ankle) and Curtis Sanford (groin). … Chicago has forward Ben Smith (concussion) on injured reserve.

Stat Pack:
Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash surpassed 2,000 career shots in the game against the Sabres. … Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith logged 27:15 of ice time against the Hurricanes, six minutes more than anyone else on the team.

Puck Drop:
NHL teams have been hosting "Hockey Fights Cancer" awareness nights all month and Chicago will hold its at the United Center on Saturday. Lawson Frank, a local 13-year-old battling a rare form of childhood cancer, will perform the ceremonial puck drop, two cancer foundations will be presented with $2,500 checks from the League's Hockey Fights Cancer Grant and there will be a silent auction and mystery pucks signed by various players sold to raise additional money.

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