Blackhawks-Blue Jackets Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 25, 2013
Paced by their stars, the Chicago Blackhawks remain cautiously confident while off to their best start in four decades. The undefeated Blackhawks look to start 4-0 on the road for the first time in 46 seasons and continue their dominance over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night. After two straight first-round playoff exits following its Stanley Cup run in 2010, Chicago (4-0-0) is poised to return to the ranks of the NHL elite. Healthy and focused, the Blackhawks have scored 17 goals and played solid defense while matching their best start since 1972-73. "It's a good feeling," said forward Patrick Kane, the team leader with seven points. "We've got to be careful, too. We've got to stay with it and keep building confidence." The Blackhawks last started 5-0 in 1971-72 and have not opened with four straight road wins since 1966-67. Playing 10 of its first 12 on the road, Chicago rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 in overtime at Dallas on Thursday. Patrick Sharp had a goal with two assists, Jonathan Toews had the game-tying score in the third and Kane delivered a behind-the-back pass to Marian Hossa for the one-time winner 1:41 into overtime. "We'll talk about that one for a long time, like (Kane) had eyes behind his head,'' coach Joel Quenneville said. Fully recovered from a concussion suffered in last season's playoffs, Hossa ranks among the NHL leaders with five goals. Hossa, Kane, Toews and Sharp have either scored or assisted on all but three of the team's goals. That foursome also has combined to score four of Chicago's six power-play goals on 20 chances for a 30 percent conversion rate. The Blackhawks ranked 26th with a 15.2 power-play percentage in 2011-12. "We've talked about having a good start, but it's not something we're sitting here thinking we're proud of," defenseman Duncan Keith said. "We're four games into the season. There's still going to be a lot of hockey to be played and we know there's still room for improvement. "As long as we keep getting better, that's what we're focused on." The Blackhawks hope to progress while trying for an eighth consecutive overall victory over the Blue Jackets (1-2-1) and seventh straight in Columbus. Hossa has three goals with four assists in the last five games against the Blue Jackets while Sharp has four and two assists in his last three. Toews tallied four goals and five assists in his last four at Columbus, where Chicago has outscored the hosts 11-2 in the last two trips. Boasting a 1.98 goals-against average in three starts this season, Corey Crawford is 4-0-0 with a 1.96 GAA at Columbus. The Blue Jackets scored six times to earn three points in their first two games but have been outscored 9-1 while dropping the last two in regulation. Columbus, which trailed 2-0 in the first period of Thursday's 4-0 loss at Colorado, has allowed the first goal three times in four games. "We have to have better starts,'' center Ryan Johansen said. "It's tough to come back from deficits in this league. We have to have our focus a little stronger and everybody has to be on the same page. If we do that we'll be successful." Fedor Tyutin has a team-high four points, and scored Columbus' most recent goal in the second period of Wednesday's 5-1 loss at Phoenix.
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