GAME DAY: vs. Chicago
Jackets face Central Division rival Blackhawks tonight
WATCH: FOX Sports Ohio (HD) | LISTEN: 97.1 The Fan & BlueJackets.com
|The Chicago Blackhawks are a formidable opponent regardless of the date on the calendar. Throw in a three-game losing streak and a frustrated group of players, and the Blue Jackets will have their hands full in tonight’s Central Division clash with their foes from the Windy City.
It has been a rough ride of late for Joel Quenneville’s group. The Blackhawks started 6-1-2 in their first nine games and were sitting atop the Western Conference standings. The team has hit a small skid recently, starting to see things it did not previously.
A wild game in Tampa Bay against the Lightning saw Chicago lose a two-goal lead in the second period, leading to a 5-4 overtime defeat. That was the first of three straight losses for the Blackhawks, who have scored a total of two games in their last two games. Following a 6-2 drubbing at home to the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday, the Blackhawks were the first team to face the St. Louis Blues under new coach Ken Hitchcock.
Jaroslav Halak made 29 saves for the Blues in a 3-0 shutout win at Scottrade Center on Tuesday night. The recent stretch is not sitting well with either Quenneville or his players, who have been unseated atop the conference standings by the red-hot Dallas Stars.
One thing that has gone well for the Blackhawks is Patrick Kane moving to center ice. The 22-year-old played some center as a youngster, but made the move full-time early on this season and it’s paying dividends. Kane is the team’s leading scorer (four goals, 11 assists) in the first 15 games and has formed a lethal alliance with sniper Marian Hossa. The Slovakian winger leads the Blackhawks in goals (7) and had a stretch of five points in four games from Oct. 31 to Nov. 6.
Defenseman Duncan Keith returned to the lineup in St. Louis after missing the previous three games with an upper-body injury. He was his usual, steady self on the blue line in his first game back – playing 24:45 total and drawing a hefty amount of power-play time with his accurate shot.
In goal, the Blackhawks are expected to turn to Corey Crawford tonight at Nationwide Arena. In the only previous meeting between the two teams this season, backup Ray Emery got the start and earned a 5-2 win at United Center.