The Columbus Blue Jackets will be trying for their fifth straight win over the Chicago Blackhawks when the teams meet at Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets probably wouldn’t mind if the game wasn’t so close this time.
Columbus has won four consecutive matchups with Chicago by one goal, last losing to the Blackhawks by a 4-3 score on Feb. 25, 2004.
Their recent results, however, suggest that the Blue Jackets could be headed for yet another close game. Columbus ended a four-game losing streak Sunday with a 3-2 shootout victory at Anaheim, the third straight contest the Blue Jackets have played that was decided by one goal.
Columbus squandered a two-goal lead in the third period, but Rick Nash scored the only goal of the shootout and Pascal Leclaire stopped Teemu Selanne on the final Mighty Ducks shot as the Blue Jackets improved to 7-2 in shootouts and 11-2 overall in overtime this season.
“We are basically working for next season, the last 20 games it’s important for us to find the core chemistry of our team. This organization wants to make the playoffs,” said Columbus center Sergei Fedorov, who played his first game at Arrowhead Pond since being acquired from the Ducks on Nov. 16.
Fedorov has only six goals and 27 points for Columbus, but he should be happy that the Blackhawks are coming to town. Despite going without a goal in his last three games against Chicago, Fedorov has 77 points in 79 games against the Blackhawks, his highest total against any team.
Columbus failed to make the playoffs in its first five seasons, and the Jackets are all but certain not to do it in their sixth, trailing eighth-place Edmonton by 22 points.
At 11-11 with two ties, Columbus has more victories against Chicago than any other opponent.
The Blackhawks are looking to avoid a three-game losing streak after being routed 7-2 by Dallas on Sunday.
Chicago goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin is expected to return Tuesday from a sprained MCL in his right knee, which he suffered during a 4-1 loss to Minnesota on Jan. 20. Khabibulin missed 12 games and the Olympics.
The Blackhawks’ goalie was having a difficult first season in Chicago before getting injured, going 12-18-3 with a 3.32 goals-against average, an .883 save percentage and no shutouts.