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Blue Jackets-Blackhawks Preview

AP - Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets elected to bolster their hobbled blue line on deadline day, and in a separate deal traded away a top forward they acquired this time last season in a push for more offense.

They'll put their new plan in play and go for a fourth straight win Thursday night in Chicago, where the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks remained relatively quiet as they try to make up ground near the top of the Western Conference.

Such points have been easy to come by for Chicago against Columbus with 11 straight wins in the series.

Before beginning a three-game road trip, the Blue Jackets (32-25-5) acquired veteran defenseman Nick Schultz from Edmonton on Wednesday in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick while shipping a now-healthy Marian Gaborik to Los Angeles for forward Matt Frattin and two conditional draft picks.

Gaborik hadn't produced at the level Columbus had hoped since nabbing him from the New York Rangers at last season's deadline. He had six goals and eight assists in 22 games in 2013-14 and will be a free agent at the end of the season.

With defensemen Fedor Tyutin (ankle) and Ryan Murray (lower body) out with clouded timetables for returns, the Blue Jackets needed defensive help and elected to plan for the future and get something for Gaborik.

"Our goal was to protect the future of the franchise in the best possible way that we could," general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "We're a young team, a blue-collar team, a hard-working team. And he's a finesse, skilled player that wasn't the greatest fit. I'll take responsibility for that."

Chicago (36-13-14) sent a second-round pick Phoenix's way Tuesday for defensemen David Rundblad and Mathieu Brisebois. Rundblad has joined the team and Brisebois was sent to AHL Rockford as the Blackhawks try to put three losses in their last four games behind them.

They fell 4-2 at home to Colorado on Tuesday, their first game with forward Marian Hossa sidelined for two to three weeks with an upper-body injury. Chicago still outshot Colorado 38-21.

"I think we outchanced and outplayed them," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I didn't like any of the goals that went in tonight. It was one of those games."

The loss especially stung as Central Division-leading St. Louis won and Colorado crept within a point of the Blackhawks.

"We lost a lot of ground tonight," Quenneville told the team's official website. "You look at the four-point swing (against the Blues), so now we're behind and Colorado's one point (back). But a lot of things can change, and I'd love to move ahead, and we'd love to finish first in our division."

Chicago got goals from Ben Smith and Jonathan Toews, who has three goals and an assist in his last two games, but it was the fourth time in five games the team was held to two goals or fewer.

The Blue Jackets are 15-6-1 since the calendar turned to 2014. This is their first of two meetings with Chicago in less than a month, and they tuned up for it in positive fashion Tuesday with a 4-2 home win over Dallas.

Artem Anisimov is showing they might not need Gaborik. He scored twice against the Stars and has five goals and an assist in the last four games. He's scored the winning goal in each game on the streak and matched a career high with 18 goals in 62 games, 20 fewer than it took him in 2010-11 with the Rangers.

"Right now might be as good as we've seen him play in a Columbus uniform," coach Todd Richards told the team's official website. "Those were two huge goals for us, especially the way the game was going."

Sergei Bobrovsky made 31 saves and has been in goal for all three wins. He's 1-0-1 with a 0.96 goals-against average in his career against Chicago.

Corey Crawford will start for the Blackhawks. He's 9-0-0 with a 1.53 GAA against the Blue Jackets during Chicago's stretch of dominance in the series.

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