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Tear in My Heart: Blackhawks at Blue Jackets Preview

After finally breaking the losing streak, can the Blackhawks get another victory in Columbus?

Chicago Blackhawks v Columbus Blue Jackets
Alex DeBrincat of the Chicago Blackhawks skates against Dean Kukan of the Columbus Blue Jackets in NHL action
Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks will head to Ohio to face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday in a clash of two Central Division teams last season that are meeting for the first time in 2021-22.

The Blue Jackets are 16-16-1 this season in 33 games, collecting 33 points. They’re tied with the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils for fifth place in the Metropolitan Division but have two games in hand on Philadelphia and three on New Jersey. The Blue Jackets are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games, having won their last outing against New Jersey on Saturday.

Before Saturday’s victory, the Blue Jackets had lost three in a row, giving up seven goals to both the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning in back-to-back games. Part of the problem is that the best goaltender for the Blue Jackets so far this season is 22-year-old Daniil Tarasov, who has played just four games and has a .937 save percentage. He’s on injured reserve with a lower-body injury, though.

The duo of Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo are both below .910, with Merzlikins at a .907 save percentage in 21 games and Korpisalo at a .886 save percentage in 12.

Another big problem for Columbus is their defense, which has given up the third-most expected goals per 60 (xGA/60) at 5-on-5 so far this season with 2.7. For context, the Blackhawks, who had a very rough defensive start this season and who came into this season as one of the worst defensive teams in the league over the last few seasons, have allowed 2.39, nearing the top 10 defensively.

The Blue Jackets’ offense also isn’t enough to make up for their collapsing defense, generating just 2.32 xG/60 at 5-on-5, 22nd in the league. However, their luck has helped maintain their .500 pace, as the Blue Jackets have the 12th-most goals per game so far this season.

This is the first time the Blackhawks will see defenseman Adam Boqvist since trading him (among other things) to the Blue Jackets for Seth Jones. Boqvist was revealed to have come back to Chicago for Christmas to celebrate with the DeBrincat family, whom he lived with while a Blackhawk, so expect some pre-game shenanigans between the two.

Boqvist has seven goals and seven assists in 23 games this season, ninth on the Blue Jackets’ roster with 14 points. That would be tied for sixth on the Blackhawks’ roster.

Boqvist isn’t the lone change to the Blue Jackets’ roster since the last time the Blackhawks faced them. The Blue Jackets added Jakub Voracek from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Cam Atkinson over the summer, as well as forward Cole Sillinger (five goals, seven assists in 33 games) — selected with the Blackhawks’ 2021 first-rounder — and defenseman Jake Bean, gained in exchange for the Blackhawks’ 2021 second-rounder (four goals, eight assists in 32 games).

The Blue Jackets’ acquisition of Patrik Laine has continued to sputter, as Laine has just four goals in 14 games so far this season, although he has eight assists and 12 points. Laine has come a long way from his 44 goals in 82 games in his sophomore season, when he had the most power-play goals. Laine has no power-play goals this season.

Chicago has more than sputtered this season, far below the Blue Jackets’ .500 pace, and enters this game at 12-18-5. Expect a lot of talk about the trade the Blackhawks and Blue Jackets made this summer during commentary for this game. To note: Jones and Boqvist have the same amount of goals above replacement so far this year with 4.2.

[UPDATE] Or maybe not:

Blackhawks — Statistic — Blue Jackets

47.08% (26th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 47.77% (24th)

45.91% (27th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 46.23% (26th)

2.29 (30th) — Goals per game — 3.12 (12th)

3.4 (26th) — Goals against per game — 3.55 (28th)

48.7% (21st) — Faceoffs — 50.2% (13th)

18.8% (18th) — Power play — 16.3% (26th)

74.8% (26th) — Penalty kill — 76.9% (25th)

Projected lineups (subject to change)

Blackhawks

Kubalik — Toews — Kane

Kurashev — Dach — Entwistle

DeBrincat — Strome — Connolly

Khaira — Borgstrom — Carpenter

McCabe — S. Jones

de Haan — Murphy

C. Jones — Gustafsson

Fleury

Soderblom

Blue Jackets

Bjorkstrand — Roslovic — Voracek

Laine — Jenner — Nyquist

Chinakhov — Sillinger — Domi

Robinson — Kuraly — Bemstrom

Werenski — Boqvist

Gavrikov — Bean

Kukan — Peeke

Korpisalo

Merzlikins

How to watch

When: 6 p.m. CT

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Webstream: ESPN+