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Blue Jackets go for four straight against Chicago

by Adam Schwartz
The Columbus Blue Jackets, who are riding a three-game win streak, are in pretty good position to make the playoffs for the first time in team history.

With a win against the fourth-place Chicago Blackhawks tonight (7 p.m. ET, GCL), the sixth-place Blue Jackets could jump ahead of No. 5 Vancouver in the Western Conference playoff chase.

The Canucks will have something to say about that, as they host the Los Angeles Kings (10 p.m. ET, GCL) in the only other game Friday night.

The Kings are 13th in the West, but only five points out of a playoff spot, and with just 16 games left in the season, they should have a playoff-level intensity.

Here's what to keep an eye on:

* Columbus left wing Kristian Huselius, who is second on the team with 47 points, has a plus-6 rating in his last five games despite being a minus-1 on the season. Huselius, who has had at least 60 points in each of his previous two seasons in Calgary, is on pace to finish this season with just 57 points.

* The Blue Jackets, who are tied with the Kings for the longest current winning streak in the Western Conference at three games, have the fifth-most home hits in the League at 929. Columbus, which is 18-5-1 when leading after the first period and 19-3-0 when leading after two periods, is 3-10-1 when trailing after the first period and 2-21-3 when trailing after two periods.

* Chicago right wing Troy Brouwer, who is ninth among Western Conference rookies with 24 points, scored a goal and played a career-high 24:54 Wednesday in Chicago's 3-2 shootout win against the Hurricanes. Brouwer, who is ninth among rookies with a plus-11 rating, has 10 goals and 20 points in 33 wins, but no goals and 4 assists in 20 losses.

* Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell, who is fifth among Western Conference defensemen and tied for eighth among all defensemen with 44 points, has a minus-7 rating in his last three games. Campbell, who has just 14 points at home, is just 4 points shy of tying his career-high of 48.

* The Blackhawks, who have the fourth-best road power play in the League at 24.0 percent, have blocked the fourth-fewest shots in the League with just 712. Chicago, which is 25-10-4 when outshooting their opponent, is 10-9-5 when being outshot.

* Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty, who leads rookie defensemen with 21 points and an average ice time of 23:49 per game, has no goals and just 6 points on the road.

* The Kings, who have won their last three games, have the fifth-best home power play in the Western Conference and the eighth-best in the League at 21.2 percent. Los Angeles, which has the fourth-best road penalty kill in the conference at 81.7 percent, is 17-18-6 when outshooting their opponent, but 10-10-3 when being outshot.

* Canucks center Mats Sundin, who had just 2 goals and 3 points in his first seven games after deciding to sign with Vancouver in December, has 9 assists and 14 points in his last 18 games. Sundin, who has had at least 80 points in six seasons, has 27 assists and 38 points in 33 career games against the Kings.

* Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo, who is tied for sixth in the League with five shutouts despite missing 24 games with a groin injury, has earned the Canucks a point in five of his last six games and has allowed more than three goals in just one game during that span. Luongo, who is 6-6-1 in 13 career games against the Kings, is 1-1-0 with a 1.52 goals-against average in two games against Los Angeles this season.

* Canucks center Ryan Kesler, who is playing on a line with Sundin and Pavol Demitra, has 4 assists and 6 points in his last six games. Kesler, who has 16 assists and 28 points in 33 home games, has the fifth-best faceoff percentage among American-born players at 53.9 percent.
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