Blackhawks-Blue Jackets Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 13, 2013
Although they're at nearly opposite ends of the Western Conference standings, the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets have had three competitive matchups this season. The results, though, have continued to be one-sided. The well-rested Blackhawks will try to avoid dropping a third straight game since their NHL-record start by extending their recent dominance over the Blue Jackets on Thursday night. Chicago hasn't played like the team that opened 21-0-3 in its last two games, giving up six goals each time in back-to-back defeats. The Blackhawks couldn't complete a rally from an early 4-0 deficit to Edmonton in a 6-5 defeat Sunday. "Definitely disappointed with the way we began the game," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I like the response, though, after that.'' That was the team's seventh contest in 11 days, and Chicago has since gotten a significant break before starting a four-game road trip. "We've got to take advantage, take care of our bodies and get ready for Thursday,'' captain Jonathan Toews said. Having won 10 straight in the series, a matchup with the Blue Jackets would seem ideal for the Blackhawks (21-2-3) to keep their skid brief. Their three meetings this season, however, have all been decided by one goal and Chicago needed overtime to earn its latest win over Columbus, 4-3 on March 1. Since that defeat, the Blue Jackets (10-12-5) have extended their point streak to eight. They nearly recorded a sixth consecutive win for the first time in seven seasons Tuesday before falling 2-1 in a shootout to Vancouver. "Anytime you can add a point, it's good," center Mark Letestu said. "Especially the way the schedule is, and with the teams so tight in the standings, it's a small victory to get the point." Sergei Bobrovsky, who made 37 saves, has a 0.83 goals-against average in his team's last six games and might get his first start against Chicago this season. Bobrovsky has faced the Blackhawks once in his career, a 4-1 win for Philadelphia on Jan. 23, 2011, in which he made 30 saves. Chicago might turn to Corey Crawford, who replaced Ray Emery in the first period Sunday. Crawford has posted a 1.61 GAA in his eight straight wins versus Columbus and recorded a shutout in the second of his two starts against them this season Feb. 24. The Blackhawks' Viktor Stalberg has nine goals and three assists in his last nine matchups with the Blue Jackets, and his 11 career goals against them are by far his most against any team. Dave Bolland and Bryan Bickell each have six-game point streaks versus Columbus, with Bickell scoring twice in this season's series. Patrick Kane, who has three assists in the three games, is one shy of his 400th career point. The Blue Jackets' Artem Anisimov has scored a goal in each of his last three against Chicago.
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