Columbus (18-21-9) at Chicago (31-11-4)

Cloudy Currently: Chicago, IL
Temp: 57° F
  • Game info: 8:30 pm EST Thu Jan 14, 2010
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The Chicago Blackhawks got some needed rest this week, allowing star winger Marian Hossa(notes) time to heal.

The Blackhawks won’t catch many breaks the rest of this month, but they are expected to have Hossa back for their final January home game Thursday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Chicago (31-11-4) ended a stretch of 15 games in 26 days with its fourth pair of consecutive defeats this season and first since November. The Blackhawks blew a four-goal lead in a 6-5 shootout loss at Minnesota on Saturday night, and fell 3-1 to visiting Anaheim the next evening despite a 43-12 shots advantage.

After their first break of more than one day since mid-December, coach Joel Quenneville hopes his team can avoid its first three-game losing streak since an 0-3-2 skid March 13-20, which included two losses to Columbus.

“We’re going to get re-energized after a day or two,” he said. “We got to the top, but sustaining that is going to be another huge challenge. In the short term, we know we’re facing a monster road trip coming up.”

That season-high eight-game trek begins with a home-and-home series against the Blue Jackets (18-21-9). A game versus rival Detroit follows, then the Blackhawks have four games in Canada before going to San Jose—the team they trail by one point for the Western Conference lead.

The road swing ends at Carolina on Jan. 30 before they return home Feb. 3 to face St. Louis. Over 15 days, the team will travel about 9,000 miles, and Hossa’s presence should help.

The right winger, who has five goals in his last four games overall and 11 in 12 career matchups with Columbus, missed Sunday night’s loss with a lower-body injury. Chicago is 11-2-1 when he has at least one point.

Hossa assisted on tying goals in the second and third periods Dec. 1 against Columbus and scored in the shootout, where Chicago’s only other goal came from Brent Seabrook(notes) in the 11th round and resulted in a 4-3 victory.

After scoring at least four times in nine straight games, the Blackhawks managed only Duncan Keith’s(notes) goal with 4:53 remaining Sunday while tying a team record for fewest shots allowed. Antti Niemi(notes), who leads the West with a 1.84 goals-against average, made just nine saves, but it’s Cristobal Huet(notes) who will likely try to rebound from a poor showing Thursday.

Huet allowed four goals in the final 13:16 of regulation Saturday. He’s had a 2.81 GAA over his last seven games after posting a 2.01 GAA in his first 26 starts.

Huet did beat Columbus last month as part of a 13-2-0 stretch at home, and he has a 1.58 GAA in that span. The Blackhawks have won 17 of 20 at the United Center.

They’ll face a Blue Jackets team attempting to rebound Tuesday night’s 4-1 loss in St. Louis, which snapped a three-game win streak.

Mathieu Garon(notes) didn’t make it past the first period after allowing three goals on nine shots. Steve Mason(notes) stopped all 13 he saw in relief, the Jackets’ league-high eighth goalie change this season.

“We battled, but you can’t dig yourself a hole on the road and expect to win games,” coach Ken Hitchcock said. “It’s too much to come back.”

Mason’s performance might have earned him Thursday’s start. The 2008-09 Calder Trophy winner and Vezina finalist has lost eight of his last nine starts but is 2-1-2 with a 2.29 GAA against the Blackhawks, including the Dec. 1 loss.

The teams play again Saturday.

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Thursday, Jan 14