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Stressed Out: Blackhawks vs. Blue Jackets Preview

Another battle with NHL bottom dwellers both looking to end losing streaks.

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Columbus Blue Jackets v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks and the Columbus Blue Jackets meet Friday night at the United Center with the same goal: ending their longest losing streaks of their respective seasons. Chicago is at eight games without a win while Columbus has lost five straight.

The Blue Jackets are one of a handful of teams that are battling the Blackhawks in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes. Their bottom-five and lackluster special teams performances this season have sunk them to 30th in the league in points percentage at .344, the closest bottom-dweller the Blackhawks have faced in recent games. Columbus is also just 2-8-0 in their last 10 games and 2-9-1 on the road this season.

If there was ever a chance for the Blackhawks to pick up a win finally before their losses hit historical levels, this is likely the best opportunity.

The Blue Jackets most recently lost 5-3 to the Philadelphia Flyers Tuesday night, another team that dwells near the bottom of the league standings. Columbus managed to score three goals — the most they’d scored in five games — but they also allowed nearly 40 shots from a team that rarely musters 30 in a game.

The big story for the Blue Jackets is how injured they’ve been all season and are especially unhealthy at the moment. They were without nine regulars out in their most recent game:

  • Forwards: Jakub Voracek (concussion), Boone Jenner (thumb), Cole Sillinger (undisclosed), Justin Danforth (shoulder), Yegor Chinakhov (ankle)
  • Defensemen: Zach Werenski (shoulder), Jake Bean (shoulder), Adam Boqvist (foot)
  • Goalies: Joonas Korpisalo (lower body)

Just to note, there is a possibility of Boqvist being ready to return to the Blue Jackets’ lineup, pending an evaluation at the morning skate Friday:

The lack of Jenner and Werenski are obviously the most impactful: Jenner is Columbus’ leading goal scorer with 11 goals and Werenski is the No. 1 defensemen who skated nearly 24 minutes a night in all situations. The Blue Jackets have been without Werenski for all but 13 games this season, so they’re at least somewhat used to his absence, but Jenner was injured just last Saturday in a game against the Boston Bruins.

Columbus isn’t without some talent, though. Johnny Gaudreau is having a strong offensive season with 34 points (10 G, 24 A) in 32 games, and Patrik Laine is on a hot streak at the moment with 10 points (5 G, 5 A) in his last 10 games. Twenty-year-old Kent Johnson has been having a respectable sophomore showing so far with 0.55 points-per-game (16 in 29), tied for fourth best on the team with Jack Roslovic. The Blue Jackets also have high hopes for prospect Kirill Marchenko, who will be skating in just his 10th NHL game on Friday.

Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, without Werenski and Bean, their defense is a cast of “Who’s that?” led by the mediocre-at-best Erik Gudbranson. Their trio of under-25 blueliners — Andrew Peeke, Jake Christiansen, and Marcus Bjork — are intriguing but haven’t been able to fill the void left by their better peers.

In net, with the injury to Korpisalo, 23-year old prospect Daniil Tarasov has been very respectable in relief with a .913 save-percentage in 10 games. With better goal support, it’s possible he could even lead the Jackets to more wins than the two he currently has under his belt. It’s unknown yet if Tarasov, Korpisalo, or Elvis Merzlikins — the latter with his horrible .864 save-percentage — will be in net Friday. Korpisalo was at Blue Jackets practice Thursday and Merzlikins may be back from the illness that made him miss Monday’s game.

Tale of the tape (statistics from this season)

Blackhawks — Statistic — Blue Jackets

41.84% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 45.06% (29th)

41.28% (31st) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 44.86% (29th)

2.26 (32nd) — Goals per game — 2.72 (27th)

3.81 (29th) — Goals against per game — 4.03 (31st)

56.6% (1st) — Faceoffs — 49.9% (16th)

18.8% (16th) — Power play — 15.1% (31st)

75.0% (28th) — Penalty kill — 77.8% (28th)

How to watch

When: 7:30 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago Plus

Radio: WGN 720

Live stream: Sling TV

(Quick note: The projected lineups will be part of another article that’ll run later in the day as part of a shift in how we handle previews here.)