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Blackhawks vs. Blue Jackets preview: No Michal Rozsival? No Michal Rozsival

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The Blackhawks return to the United Center for a Friday night tilt against the red-hot Blue Jackets.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

David Rundblad returns to the lineup tonight as the Blackhawks (44-23-6) host the red-hot Blue Jackets (34-35-4).

Rundblad is likely the only person happier than Duncan Keith is about this, as Keith won’t have to atone for the corpse he’s been saddled with as a partner lately. There’s simply no way Rundblad can be worse than the atrocity that Rozsival has been much of the season, so it’s good to see him back in the lineup.

The forwards will also look differently than whatever it was Joel Quenneville vomited out in Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

Here are the lines from the morning skate:

Versteeg Toews Hossa
Saad Richards Sharp
Bickell Vermette Teravainen
Desjardins Kruger Shaw

At least the lines are better than Wednesday's, though much is still to be desired. Lane Kiffin is impressed by Kris Versteeg’s ability to fall up in life. Remember when the Sharp-Toews-Hossa line was briefly reunited and dominated? Teuvo is in the bottom six. Remember when Teuvo was sent back to Rockford because he couldn’t be a bottom-six player? Just remember, Quenneville is above any and all criticism because TWO CUPS.

The Blackhawks are 7-2-1 in their last 10, thanks in large part to Corey Crawford. Aside from disheartening efforts in Dallas and Philadelphia, the results have been positive. But going into the playoffs, success is just as much about the process as it is the result. Much room for improvement remains with that process – the dominant puck-possession game that’s been Chicago’s foundation for years is nowhere to be found sans Patrick Kane, opponents are still getting too many shots off and the offense has been about as productive as a college student on spring break, netting four non-empty net tallies in its last four games. If not for Crawford being the best player on the ice on a nightly basis, that 7-2-1 record likely looks a lot worse.

The degree of difficulty steeply increases after tonight, with six of the Blackhawks’ eight remaining bouts coming against Western Conference playoff teams. The Blues and Predators both remain within reach, though catching either seems improbable. For as laughably paranoid as Nashville has become off the ice, they’ve appeared to regain their stride on it this week. As for the Fighting Devan Dubnyks, objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.

If the Blackhawks are going to have home-ice in round one, they have to have two points tonight after peeing prime opportunities against the Stars and Flyers down their pant legs.

Opponent Breakdown: Columbus Blue Jackets

Columbus visits the United Center winners of four consecutive games and seven of their last eight. The Blue Jackets have also been much better on the road (20-15-2) than at home (14-20-2). If the Blackhawks again fail to get up for this game, it's going to be another two and a half hours of them getting their faces smashed in.

In net will be Sergei Bobrovsky, who went all 2013 Bob in these teams’ prior meeting in December. He made 39 saves in the game’s first 65 minutes and then turned aside eight of nine Chicago shootout attempts to give the Blue Jackets the victory. His return to Vezina form has played a large role in Columbus' recent success -- he a .928 save percentage in his last eight starts.

Their play with the man-advantage is another key reason, as they've gone 8-for-23 on the power play in their last eight games. Brandon Dubinsky returns to the lineup tonight after a four-game absence, just in time to spar once again with Jonathan Toews.

Tonight marks Jeremy Morin’s first in Chicago as an opponent; he'll play right wing on the fourth line. It’s unknown what Morin did to warrant permanent exclusion from Quenneville’s circle of trust, but he assuredly will score at least once tonight.

Injury Report

Chicago: Daniel Carcillo (upper body), Patrick Kane (collarbone) and Joakim Nordstrom (upper body).

Columbus: Jared Boll (suspension) and Rene Bourque (upper body)

Game Information

When: 7:30 p.m. CT

Where: United Center

TV: CSN

Radio: WGN-720