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Chicago seeking 5-0 start at Columbus

by Pete Jensen

BLACKHAWKS (4-0-0) at BLUE JACKETS (1-2-1)


Season series: Saturday marks the first of four meetings this season between the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets. Chicago swept the six-game series with Columbus in 2011-12, outscoring their Central Division rivals 31-10.

Big story: Each of Columbus' losses to Chicago last season came by three goals or more. The Blue Jackets look to snap a three-game winless skid, and the Blackhawks try to keep their undefeated record intact.

Team scope:

Blackhawks: Four games into the 2012-13 campaign, the Blackhawks lead the League with 17 goals and were one of five remaining unbeaten clubs entering Friday's action. Their first three games of the season saw strong play in the first two periods dictate the pace in eventual victories, but Thursday night's game against the Dallas Stars didn't come as easily.

The Blackhawks trailed the Stars 2-0 midway through the second period but were fortunate enough to receive -- and cash in on -- numerous special-teams opportunities from that point forward. After Patrick Sharp scored on a man advantage to close out the second, and Jonathan Toews quieted the home fans with a power-play equalizer late in the third before Marian Hossa blasted his fifth goal of the season to beat Kari Lehtonen in overtime

"It was a big win for us," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville told "We didn't change too much, didn't get away from our game, just tried to get on the offensive side of things, drew some penalties and the power play cashed in."

Blue Jackets: After kicking off the new season with a 3-2 road shootout triumph over the Nashville Predators last Saturday, the Blue Jackets took a step back in their next three games. Columbus suffered a shootout defeat at the hands of Damien Brunner and the Detroit Red Wings on Monday before being outscored 9-1 in losses on consecutive days to the Phoenix Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche.

The Blue Jackets, despite being without top-line winger Cam Atkinson due to injury Thursday, outshot the Avalanche, 33-28. Semyon Varlamov stole the show by keeping Columbus off the scoreboard for his first shutout of 2012-13. It also didn’t help that the Blue Jackets allowed a goal in the opening minute of a game for the second time this season.

"We have to have better starts," Blue Jackets forward Ryan Johansen told the team's website. "It's tough to come back from deficits in this league. We've got to be more sharp to start games. We have to have our focus a little stronger and everybody has to be on the same page."

Who's hot: Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, who assisted on Hossa's overtime winner in Dallas, had two assists to give him a team-leading seven points. … Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin has been a point-per-game player so far, with a goal and three assists.

Injury report: Daniel Carcillo (lower body) is out indefinitely for Chicago. … Atkinson (lower body) is day-to-day, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

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