The Blackhawks look to sweep the season series against the Blue Jackets on Sunday afternoon at Nationwide Arena in Columbus. Chicago (16-17-6) took the first game in the season series 3-2 in overtime Oct. 18.
The Blackhawks have won four of six and are a game away from being .500 this season, but they remain at the bottom of the Central Division. They’re beating good teams like the Avalanche, Islanders and Jets in recent games, but losing to lower-tier teams like the Devils. The Blackhawks are a conundrum.
Equally confounding is the situation of forward Dylan Sikura, who has only played three games since he was recalled Dec. 8 and hasn’t been in action since Dec. 21. John Quenneville, who was called up Dec. 22, played 8:20 before he was promoted to the first line — with Jonathan Toews and Dominik Kubalik — and played 13:55 on Monday.
Robin Lehner made 38 saves, and Chicago scored five straight goals for a 5-2 win against the Islanders on Friday. Lehner has won four straight, while his goalie partner Corey Crawford has a 4.61 goals-against average during a four-game losing streak. Lehner will make his fourth start in his last five games. He’s 3-1 with a 1.76 GAA in his career as a starter against the Blue Jackets.
Rookie defenseman Adam Boqvist will return to the lineup after sustaining a “minor” right shoulder injury in Chicago’s 7-1 loss to New Jersey on Monday. He was held out of the game Friday. Olli Maatta will sit out and Slater Koekkoek will stay in.
Patrick Kane had an assist against New York for his 11th point in his past seven games. He has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in his past six games against Columbus.
Columbus (17-14-7), meanwhile, is riding high on a nine-game point streak and three-game win streak at home. The Blue Jackets’ season-high five-game winning streak came to an end with a 2-1 overtime loss Friday at Washington.
The Blue Jackets do have some clear flaws with one of the lowest-production offenses in the Eastern Conference with the third-fewest goals for at 99 this season. Columbus’ goaltending has improved this season as Joonas Korpisalo is 6-0-2 with a 1.61 GAA and .946 save percentage as the starter. Elvis Merzlikins, who has a .889 save percentage in nine games, made 30 saves in the overtime loss to Chicago earlier this season.
Pierre-Luc Dubois leads the Blue Jackets in scoring with 26 points in 38 games, and is tied with Oliver Bjorkstrand at 12 goals. Seth Jones and Zach Werenski continue to produce from the blue line with 22 and 20 points respectively.
The Blue Jackets’ current list of injured players, which includes Cam Atkinson (21 points) and Oliver Bjorkstrand (23 points), is even longer than the Blackhawks’, so who knows what team will show up.
Tale of the Tape
Blackhawks — Statistic — Blue Jackets
47.9% (25th) — Corsi For — 50.2% (13th)
45.9% (28th) — Expected goals for — 53.8% (4th)
2.79 (21st) — Goals per game — 2.60 (T-25th)
3.15 (21st) — Goals against per game — 2.81 (T-8th)
14.8% (27th) — Power play — 17.3% (21st)
81.6% (12th) — Penalty kill — 80.9% (15th)
Kubalik — Toews — Quenneville
DeBrincat — Dach — Strome
Nylander — Carpenter — Kane
Smith — Kampf — Highmore
Keith — Boqvist
Gustafsson — Murphy
Koekkoek — Gilbert
Nyquist — Jenner — Stenlund
Texier — Wennberg — Robinson
Foligno — Dubois — Gerbe
Lilja — Nash — MacInnis
Werenski — Jones
Gavrikov — Savard
Kukan — Carlsson
How to watch
When: 4 p.m.
Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Live stream: NBC Sports app