Game Preview : Cannonball Coming

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Blackhawks (45 pts 21-2-3) @ Columbus Blue Jackets (25 pts 10-12-5) 6 PM Nationwide Area - Columbus OH, TV: CSN Chicago Radio: WGN 720 AM

Season Series

Date Score W. Goal
Mar 14 '13
Mar 01 '13 CBJ 3 at CHI 4 - OT B. Seabrook
Feb 24 '13 CBJ 0 at CHI 1 A. Shaw
Jan 26 '13 CHI 3 at CBJ 2 J. Toews

Got to love a game where I get to quote the great Carl Spackler in the title! Today the NHL made their plan for realignment official, so tonight's game will be the final Central Division game between the Blackhawks and the Blue Jackets. The Hawks will move to a new division with the Blues, Predators, Stars, Avalanche, Wild and Jets while Columbus goes east with the Hurricanes, Rangers, Islanders, Devils, Flyers and Penguins. At least with the Islanders they might not always be in last place, which is a good step in the right direction.

Two horrible periods, in the last six played, have caused everybody to start jumping off the Blackhawks bandwagon. NHL.com has even predicted that the Ducks will surpass the Hawks for 1st pass in the Western Conference which is fine. Fatigue should not be a factor for the Hawks as they have enjoyed the last three days off. Jimmy Hayes will make his season debut tonight and will be plugged into the 2nd line. Hayes was fourth in scoring for the Rockford IceHogs with 39 points (22 G, 17 A) before his call up. This move will reunite the 3rd line of Stalberg, Shaw and Bickell who have been the best line the past couple of weeks. Corey Crawford looks to continue the Blackhawks 10 game winning streak over the Blue Jackets. Crow has had a very good career versus Columbus with a 8-2-0 record, 1.99 GAA and a .938 save %.

The Jackets have all of a sudden become one of the hottest teams in the NHL. They have set a franchise record by earning at least one point in eight straight games, going 5-0-3 in that span. Even with the recent hot streak, making the playoffs is still going to be a challenge. They are currently just three points out of the final playoff spot, but would have to leap frog over five teams to make it. If goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky can continue is excellent play then their postseason chances will definitely increase. Bobrovsky, who was acquired from the Flyers in the offseason, has not lost a start since February 23rd in St. Louis. He has only made one career start against the Hawks, in which he won 4-1 on 1/23/11. The Jackets have been a tough opponent for the Hawks this season and with their recent play, tonight's game is not a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination.

Probable Chicago Blackhawks lineup

Forwards

Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Jimmy Hayes - Dave Bolland - Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell - Andrew Shaw - Viktor Stalberg

Dan Carcillo - Marcus Kruger - Michael Frolik

Defensive Pairings

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Nick Leddy - Michal Rozsival

Goaltender

Corey Crawford 11-2-3, 1.91 GAA, .925 save %, 2 SO

Injuries

Patrick Sharp (shoulder) OUT

Leading Scorers

Player GP G A P +/- PIM PP GW
P. Kane 26 14 16 30 9 2 6 1
J. Toews 26 11 12 23 13 19 2 2
M. Hossa 25 11 10 21 9 14 2 4
P. Sharp 24 5 13 18 7 14 1 1
V. Stalberg 26 6 7 13 10 10 0 1

Probable Columbus Blue Jackets lineup

Forwards

R.J. Umberger - Ryan Johansen - Nick Foligno

Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Cam Atkinson

Vinny Prospal - Derick Brassard - Mark Letestu

Colton Gillies - Nick Drazenovic - Jared Boll

Defensive Pairings

Jack Johnson - Fedor Tyutin

Tim Erixon - Adrian Aucoin

Cody Goloubef - Dalton Prout

Goaltender

Sergei Bobrovsky 8-6-4, 2.19 GAA, .923 save %, 1 SO

Injuries

Derek Dorsett (broken collarbone) OUT, James Wisniewski (foot) OUT, Artem Anisimov (lower body) doubtful

Leading Scorers

Player GP G A P +/- PIM PP GW
V. Prospal 27 9 6 15 -1 20 4 2
M. Letestu 25 6 8 14 1 6 1 0
D. Brassard 25 4 10 14 -5 14 1 0
F. Tyutin 27 1 13 14 -4 18 0 0
N. Foligno 27 3 10 13 1 22 1 0

CHI
Stats
CJB
26 GP 27
21 W 10
2 L 12
3 OT 5
45 P 25
0.865 P% 0.463
3.15 G/G 2.18
2.12 GA/G 2.67
18.1 PP% 13
84.4 PK% 86
31.1 S/G 26.5
26.9 SA/G 29.5
49.9 FO% 51.1

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