Game Preview: Chicago Blackhawks to Take On Injury-Riddled but Surging Columbus Blue Jackets


Mar 14, 2013; Columbus, OH, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) knocks the puck away from Columbus Blue Jackets center Derick Brassard (16) at Nationwide Arena. The Blackhawks won 2-1 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Having not played since Tueday night’s victory over the Minnesota Wild, the Chicago Blackhawks should be well rested for tonight’s bout with a Columbus Blue Jackets team that just saw their shocking 7-game winning streak come to an end, on Thursday night.

This is the first game of the 2-game season series between the Hawks and Blue Jackets.  Tonight’s game will be played in Columbus, and puck drop is set for 6:00 PM Central Time.  You can catch tonight’s game on WGN-Chicago and you can listen to it on WGN 720 AM.

Here’s a statistical breakdown of the Hawks and Jackets.

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Offensively, the Hawks are an elite team and will be up against a Jackets team that has been one of the worst at keeping opponents scores low.  Defensively, the Hawks are the 2nd best in the entire league and will be tasked with preventing a Jacket team that, this season, has been near the bottom of the league offensively.

On the Power Play, the Hawks have been average, at best, and will be up against a Columbus Penalty Kill that is well into the bottom 3rd of the league.  On the Penalty Kill, the Hawks have been scary good and are tops in the league.  They will have a big challenge tonight, with Columbus’ nearly elite-class Power Play.

In the faceoff circle, the Hawks have been nearly elite and will be taking draws against the not-so-great at taking draws Blue Jackets.  In terms of positive puck-possession, the Hawks are the best in the league and the Jackets are the 2nd-to-worst in the league.

While on paper, the Hawks appear to have a huge advantage, it’s hard to tell how much that actually means, in tonight’s game.  Columbus is coming off of a 7-game winning streak, which is the type of surge a bad team doesn’t do.  The numbers suggest that injuries have made the Blue Jackets a bad team, but the results say they are figuring thing out.

The Blue Jackets are currently in 6th place in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 13-15-3, which is good for 29 points on the season.  They are currently a whopping 17 points behind the 1st place Pittsburgh Penguins, a more reasonably 7 points behind the 3rd place Washington Capitals, and only 1 point behind the 5th place New Jersey Devils.  

Yes, Columbus has been hot after a slow start and yes, the playoffs are still very possible, but they still have a lot of work to do.  This will be the Hawks’ first-look at their recently traded former-forward, Jeremy Morin.  In 2 games with the Jackets, Morin has recorded 1 point.  With injuries to key players Artem Anisimov, Scott Hartnell, Nathan Hortonand Mark Letestuthe Jackets were dealt a bad hand in which they are now learning to deal with.  All of these injured players will be out for tonight’s game.  Even with these injuries, players like budding-star, Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno have picked up the slack en route to monster seasons, thus far.

In net for the Jackets will be super-star, and 2013 Vezina Trophy winner, Sergei Bobrovsky.  Bobrovsky has been very good this season with a .920 Save Percentage in 20 games played.

The Hawks are currently leading the Central Division with a record of 22-9-1, which is good for 45 points.  Those 45 points only give the Hawks a slim 1-point lead over the 2nd place St. Louis Blues and only a 3-point lead over the 3rd place Nashville Predators.

Patrick Kane has been on fire basically all season, but he notably has 7 goals in his last 11 games played.  Jonathan Toews has recorded 5 points in his last 2 games.  Although he only has 2 points in the last 5 games, Kris Versteeg has the third most points for the Hawks.  This is worth noting because it was less than a year ago when Versteeg has a healthy scratch in the playoffs.  His rebound has been a huge boost and big reason for the Hawks’ success.  With a goal in Tuesday’s victory over the Wild, look for Marian Hossa to start putting up the numbers that he is accustomed to putting up.  Duncan Keith, who missed Tuesday’s game, is set to return to the linuep, tonight.

Speaking of returns, Corey Crawford will be returning to the crease for the Hawks.  When healthy, Crawford has been fantastic this season to the tune of a .929 Save Percentage.

While almost everything seems to be favoring the Hawks in this one, they’d be foolish to sleep on the Blue Jackets.  Standings and stats aside, Columbus has been great, lately.  Bad teams don’t win 7 consecutive games in the NHL.

Go Hawks!