Columbus (17-14-3) at Chicago (19-14-3)

Fair Currently: Chicago, IL
Temp: 68° F
  • Game info: 7:00 pm EST Sun Dec 26, 2010
  • TV: FSOH, WGN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

While the short-handed Chicago Blackhawks have displayed strong fundamentals during a three-game win streak, the same can’t be said for the way the Columbus Blue Jackets played in their last game.

The Central Division rivals meet for the first time since October on Sunday night as the Blackhawks wrap up a five-game homestand.

Despite missing top forwards Patrick Kane(notes) (left ankle) and Marian Hossa(notes) (lower-body injury), Chicago (19-14-3) has relied on strong defense to allow four goals over the last three games.

While Kane is still sidelined, Hossa is expected to return and see action for the first time since Nov. 27.

“We’re missing some key guys and our lines are more workmanlike then with that purpose,” coach Joel Quenneville said.

Corey Crawford(notes) has started every game of this homestand and 10 of the Blackhawks’ past 12 games. He improved to 10-1-1 with a 2.07 goals-against average in his last 12 starts after making 24 saves in Wednesday’s 4-1 victory over Nashville.

Chicago has given its opponent a power play only three times in its past three games.

“We controlled rebounds and stuff, but the key is we’ve been really disciplined,” Crawford said.

Discipline and effort are major issues with Columbus, mired in a 1-3-2 slide. The Blue Jackets (17-14-3) were outshot 16-1 in the first 13:13 of a 7-3 home loss to Vancouver on Thursday.

“It’s one of the most embarrassing games, obviously, since I’ve been here but it’s one of the most embarrassing games since I’ve been a coach,” coach Scott Arniel said. “That was men against pee-wees out there. Thoroughly embarrassed. I want to apologize to fans. That was absolutely, utterly, embarrassing.”

Mathieu Garon(notes) stopped 16 of 22 shots before he was replaced by Steve Mason(notes) in the second period. Arniel made it clear that Garon, who entered with a 1.91 GAA, wasn’t to blame.

“I didn’t want to leave him hanging,” Arniel said. “He’s done too many good things for us recently.”

R.J. Umberger(notes) had two goals to end an 11-game drought without one while captain Rick Nash(notes) was held without a point for the third straight game. Nash’s last four-game drought was Oct. 24-30, 2008.

“I haven’t been down this road before,” Arniel said. “Maybe the two days (off) will get them better prepared for Chicago.”

While Columbus has struggled with its work rate, Chicago has used solid play from lesser-known players for its recent success. Jack Skille(notes) scored twice Wednesday and Bryan Bickell(notes) added his sixth goal in eight games.

“We played smart,” Skille said. “When we’re playing this way, we do a pretty good job. We’re not trying to make the pretty play.”

The Blue Jackets are 4-1-1 in their last six games at the United Center, rallying from a two-goal deficit for a 3-2 victory Oct. 23. Crawford made a season-high 37 saves in the loss.

The other meeting between these teams was Oct. 15, when the Blackhawks spoiled Columbus’ home opener with a 5-2 win behind two goals from Patrick Sharp(notes).

Sharp has an 11-game point streak against Columbus with nine goals and six assists.

Umberger has nine points during a six-game run against Chicago.

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Sunday, Dec 26