NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Wednesday, April 8th
(All times eastern)
Columbus Blue Jackets (40-29-10) at Chicago Blackhawks (44-24-11), 8:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Columbus Blue Jackets will try to clinch the first
postseason berth in franchise history when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks
for tonight's Central Division battle at the United Center.
With 90 points and three games left, the Blue Jackets are currently sixth in
the Western Conference and need just one more point to book a trip to the
postseason for the first time. Columbus, which entered the league for the
2000-01 season, is two points ahead of Anaheim for playoff seeding and will
get to use a game in hand over the Ducks tonight.
The Blue Jackets have dropped two straight, but have recorded a point in three
straight games with an 0-1-2 record over that stretch. Columbus was handed a
1-0 overtime setback its last time out, as it lost to visiting Chicago on
Sunday. This does not constitute a home-and-home series, however, because the
Blackhawks played in Nashville on Tuesday.
Chicago has taken three of five meetings with the Blue Jackets this year and
tonight marks the final matchup of the regular season. The Blackhawks have won
six of nine overall in the series and Columbus has lost three of five and four
of its last seven in the Windy City.
Kris Versteeg scored the only goal in Chicago's win in Columbus on Friday, as
he tallied on a breakaway with 1:50 remaining in overtime. In the extra
session, Columbus captain Rick Nash carried the puck into the Chicago zone,
but Andrew Ladd broke up the play and feathered a pass to Versteeg, who skated
in alone on Steve Mason and beat the rookie netminder on the stick side.
Mason finished with 24 saves for the Blue Jackets, who have also lost five of
their last seven tests.
The Blue Jackets will complete their road schedule Friday in St. Louis before
completing their regular season with Saturday's home tilt against Minnesota.
Columbus is just 15-17-7 as the visiting team this season.
Chicago, meanwhile, has already clinched a playoff berth and is trying to
secure the fourth seed, which would give the Blackhawks home-ice advantage in
the first round. The Blackhawks, who have 99 points and are three ahead of
Vancouver, can lock up the fourth spot with a win tonight.
The Blackhawks won their fourth consecutive game Tuesday night, defeating the
Nashville Predators, 4-2, in the Music City. Jonathan Toews ignited a three-
goal surge in the second period and Nikolai Khabibulin was strong with 22
saves to lead Chicago to the win, which aided Columbus' playoff chances.
Dustin Byfuglien and Patrick Kane also scored in the decisive second period
The Blackhawks are 23-9-7 as the host this year and are playing their
penultimate home game of the season. Chicago will close the season with a
home-and-home series against Detroit, as they'll visit the Red Wings on
Saturday before closing the regular season with Sunday's home test.
04/08 10:45:02 ET