Chicago (12-13-5) at Columbus (11-16-3)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Columbus, OH
Temp: 65° F
  • Game info: 7:00 pm EST Sat Dec 16, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets both made early season coaching changes that have turned out for the better.

The Central Division foes each try to start new streaks in a positive direction on Friday when they meet for the third time this season, and first with their new coaches.

Chicago (12-13-5) suffered its first regulation loss under new coach Denis Savard on Thursday, 3-2 to Detroit. The Blackhawks had recorded at least one point in the previous eight games since Savard replaced Trent Yawney on Nov. 27.

Jeff Hamilton scored his third goal in four games on Thursday for the Blackhawks, who never led despite taking 31 shots—their most in four games.

“We played well,” Savard said. “It was a great effort and created a lot of chances off our forecheck. I thought we were going to get something out of it again.

“But our guys battled again, and if we continue to do that, we’ll win a lot of games.”

Columbus (11-16-3) has been just as successful since Ken Hitchcock replaced Gerard Gallant on Nov. 22. The Blue Jackets fell one game short of tying a franchise record with their sixth straight win after losing 5-4 at Phoenix in a shootout Thursday.

Both clubs have seen their offensive production increase since the coaching changes.

Chicago scored 49 goals in 21 games under Yawney and already has 27 in nine games with Savard, who is 5-1-3 since taking over.

The Blue Jackets have gone 6-3-1 while scoring 33 goals since Hitchcock came on board. Columbus was one of the NHL’s lowest-scoring teams before his arrival, with 41 goals in its first 20 games.

Chicago used its defense and some strong work in goal from backup Brian Boucher to beat Columbus 1-0 in the last meeting on Nov. 12. It was Boucher’s only win in 12 starts this season.

Starter Nikolai Khabibulin’s first loss of the season came in the Blackhawks’ first meeting with the Blue Jackets, 5-4 on Oct. 7. Khabibulin has won once in his last six starts against Columbus.

Blue Jackets left wing Rick Nash scored twice in that game, and enters this matchup with seven points in his last four outings.

Nash scored his team-leading 10th goal and added two assists in Thursday’s loss to Phoenix.

“Nash almost won the game by himself,” Hitchcock said.

This will be Chicago winger Rene Bourque’s second game back in the lineup after missing 13 from being cut by a skate blade in the last meeting with the Blue Jackets.

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Saturday, Dec 16