The Columbus Blue Jackets have had problems scoring all season. That issue has become glaring of late following a loss to the worst team in the NHL.
They hope for a better offensive performance on Wednesday night when they host the last-place Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blue Jackets (26-23-9), who are near the bottom in the NHL with 141 goals scored, have dropped six of their last seven games (1-3-3) and been outscored 24-13 in that stretch.
Despite the lack of scoring, they have accumulated five points in the last four games to move into 10th in the Western Conference. But they failed to capitalize during a matchup with league-worst Los Angeles on Sunday, losing 3-2 in a shootout.
“This is the hardest we’ve competed all year, in general in the last three or four games - it’s a wasted opportunity based on our effort,” Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock said. “The thing that’s been our nemesis all year is haunting us and that is our inability to garner more than a couple of goals a game.
“Without giving it up defensively, we have to start rewarding ourselves for the work we are putting in. Our players are focused on getting points every night, we’re paying a price. But, we are not scoring, so it puts a lot of pressure in other areas.”
One player who has been finding the back of the net lately for the Blue Jackets, though, is All-Star left wing Rick Nash, who leads the team with 29. He has scored three goals in his last four games and tallying one in his previous seven.
Nash has three goals and eight assists in his last seven home games against the Blackhawks (24-25-6), including one of each in a 4-2 victory on Nov. 14. He failed to notch in a point in their last meeting, a 1-0 win on Jan. 24 in Chicago.
Pascal Leclaire had a 30-save performance in that game for his league-leading eighth shutout. He’s won both of his starts against the Blackhawks this season, recording a 1.00 goals-against average.
He is expected to make a second consecutive start after returning from a neck injury on Sunday to make 32 stops plus two more in the shootout. The injury forced him to miss three games.
“I felt good out there,” Leclaire said. “It was good enough to play and it didn’t bother me at all, so there’s no issue.”
The Blackhawks, who are at the bottom of the Central Division continue their season-high seven-game road trip looking to improve on a 1-2-2 record. The swing ends Thursday in Nashville.
“I guess there’s no such rule against it, so if there’s no rule I guess he can do it,” said Khabibulin, who had 32 saves and two more in the tiebreaker.
Khabibulin is 1-8-3 with a 2.90 GAA in his last 12 starts. He’s dropped three consecutive games to the Blue Jackets, posting a 4.04 GAA.
The Blackhawks hope Jonathan Toews can provide some scoring help after he got an assist Sunday in his first game since suffering a sprained knee in a loss at Los Angeles on Jan. 1.
The 19-year-old rookie, who has 33 points, has two goals and an assist in three games against Columbus.