NOTE: Don’t forget to check out Bartl’s Q&A with Columbus Dispatch beat writer Aaron Portzline
The Columbus Blue Jackets arrive in Chicago on a hot streak (5-1-1 since we thumped them on Feb. 1) and looking for a little payback. Last time out we made their goaltenders look like ice dance partners as we let loose a little beat-down in a 7 – 4 win. Rest assured, the Blue Jackets have not forgotten that.
At today’s morning skate, Columbus Head Coach Scott Arniel was being all cloak-and-dagger about both his starting goaltender and his revised forward lines now that potent center Derick Brassard is out of the lineup. Honestly, I don’t think it matters. They are going to build an offense around the only offensive threats they have left — Rick Nash, R.J. Umberger, and Jake Voracek — and try to pound the offense out of the Blackhawks with bull-moose defensemen Jan Hejda, Rostislav Klesla, Marc Methot and Fedor Tyutin.
For the Blackhawks, the news went from bad to worse today in a couple of areas. Head Coach Joel Quenneville will miss tonight’s game, and no timetable has been set for his return. Additionally, a report has surfaced that asserts Patrick Kane’s flu-like symptoms were, in fact, self-induced. None of this will help a Blackhawks team in the thick of a playoff race and taking on the team sitting two points ahead of them in the Western Conference standings.
The win against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday was much-needed, but unimpressive. The ‘Hawks managed to escape the first period with a completely undeserved 1-goal lead, despite being outshot 17 – 10. They obviously got a talking to (I would suspect from Coach Q via speakerphone) between periods and managed to turn things around in the second, but once again blew the lead they had early in the third. The good news was, they scored 42 seconds later to re-take the lead — something we have seen them do only rarely this season.
This kind of play will result in unpleasant outcomes against most teams, including Columbus. The Blackhawks can’t think the effort they put forth in the Minnesota game is going to cut it, and still expect to make the playoffs. We still need 14 wins. That’s not the way to get them.
Administrative nonsense: the aforementioned Brassard and winger Derek Dorsett are both injured and will not play tonight; for the Blackhawks do not expect to see either Ryan Johnson or Fernando Pisani. Corey Crawford gets the start in net for the ‘Hawks, and Asst. Coach Mike Haviland will handle the behind the bench duties. Although, you can bet they are installing a hotline from the United Center players’ hallway to Coach QStache’s hospital room: Haviland says Q is starting to go a little stir-crazy.
7:30pm puck drop at the UC tonight. Comcast SportsNet has your TV coverage, broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers will find the game by scrolling to channel 237.
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