Game Preview #63 - Windy City Showdown

USA TODAY Sports

The Jackets come out of the trade deadline entering their toughest remaining stretch of games (in one man's opinion). A win tonight would be, how you say, huge.

Columbus Blue Jackets at Chicago Blackhawks

March 6, 2014 - 8:00 pm EST
The United Center - Chicago, Illinois
Radio - WBNS 97.1 FM -- TV - Fox Sports Ohio
Opponent's Blog: Second City Hockey
SBN's Blackhawks vs Blue Jackets coverage

Marian Gaborik is gone. This is the team we have, and frankly, I'm OK with it. As I noted on Twitter, I don't think the team got "better" yesterday, but I also don't think they got "worse". They played their best hockey over a stretch in December and January, and Gaborik did not play during that time period. Over the team's last 47 games, they're scoring goals (3.05 g/60), and have a record of 27-15-5; Gaborik played in just eight of those games, and in one of those eight games he left after four shifts with a broken collar bone.

A white flag trade this was not.

Losing Gaborik is a loss of potential scoring. I can't argue that. But, the Jackets haven't needed more scoring, to be honest. Now, past performance doesn't indicate future growth. Gaborik could light it up in LA, and the Jackets could go ice-cold shooting the puck. These things are possible. But are they likely? Is one more likely than the other? Who knows.

Jarmo and JD knew they weren't re-signing Gaborik, so they pulled the eject handle and got what they could. It's potentially two second round picks, and Jarmo probably feels that the potential of those two picks down the road is higher than the potential impact of Gaborik over the final 20 games.

On defense, however, one has to wonder if the injuries changed the team's focus. They simply HAD to get another defenseman without appearing desperate or overpaying, and that severely limited their options. Fedor Tyutin and Ryan Murray are going to be out for awhile, with rumblings now coming from guys like Porty that Murray might be done for the year based on things he heard after the Toronto game. I think Porty's speculation that those injuries forced them to shift gears, and prevented them from going as big as maybe they'd have liked, is correct. C'est la vie. Thanks, Olympics and random freak Toronto dashers!

OK, all of that aside, let's look at tonight's game. The Jackets technically didn't get a lot of help in the Metro last night, though they have tonight's game in hand over the Rangers: a win for Columbus puts them back into third place. Also, given the upcoming run of Western Conference opponents, overtime isn't a killer. Just get points, baby. The Jackets are going back to the top three lines that drove them through January and into February, and the fourth line has a tiny question mark on the right side. I'm leaving it blank below because it could literally be one of three guys: Corey Tropp, Blake Comeau, or>Matt Frattin. UPDATE: per coach Richards, it's Frattin.

On defense, well, who knows? Nick Schultz is supposed to arrive this afternoon, but no word on whether he'll play or not at this time. I'm leaving the pairings as they were from the other night, though the team's site hints as shuffling on blue-line. So, we'll know when we know, I guess.

I'm going to say something that probably doesn't sound right, but I believe it somewhat: the Chicago Blackhawks are good, but are they *that* much better than Columbus right now? The big difference in their records is that Chicago has managed to get to OT in more of their losses than Columbus; just four wins separate the two teams. Look at the head-to-head numbers below. Chicago is absolutely a better team than Columbus. But, are they really *that* much better? I don't think as much as in years-past, for sure.

Marian Hossa is out. The Hawks have a pedestrian record since the break (1-2-0), but that win was against Pittsburgh. They've been tough to beat at home, but lost the other night at home. They've lost three of four going back to the last game before the break. They've scored just eight times in their last four games, and five of those came in one game.

The Jackets' defense is banged up, to be sure. That said, this is a good time to be catching the Hawks, as they're scuffling a bit on offense, and are missing Hossa.

A win tonight would be huge. I submit that now is as good a time as any to be playing these guys. Let's get it done, boys!

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
(32-25-5, 69 Points; 4th division, 8th conference)

Boone Jenner Ryan Johansen Nathan Horton
Nick Foligno Artem Anisimov R.J. Umberger
Matt Calvert Brandon Dubinsky Cam Atkinson
Derek MacKenzie Mark Letestu Matt Frattin
Jack Johnson David Savard
Nikita Nikitin James Wisniewski
Cody Goloubef Dalton Prout
Sergei Bobrovsky
Curtis McElhinney

Chicago Blackhawks
(36-13-14, 86 Points; 2nd division, 3rd conference)

Brandon Saad Jonathan Toews Andrew Shaw
Patrick Sharp Michal Handzus Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell Peter Regin Kris Versteeg
Brandon Bollig Marcus Kruger Ben Smith
Duncan Keith Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya Niklas Hjalmarsson
Nick Leddy Michal Rozsival
Corey Crawford
Antti Raanta

Season Series

03/06/14 - Columbus at Chicago
04/04/14 - Chiacgo at Columbus

Head to Head Stats

Chicago Columbus
3.33 (1) GPG 2.90 (7)
2.57 (13) GAPG 2.76 (17)
21.5% (3) PP% 19.6% (13)
80.2% (23) PK% 81.8% (16)
Patrick Sharp, 29 G leader Ryan Johansen, 24
Duncan Keith, 46 A leader James Wisniewski, 32
Patrick Kane, 64 Pts leader Ryan Johansen, 48
Brandon Bollig, 69 PIM leader Brandon Dubinsky, 88
19-5-7 Home/Road 14-14-3
3/4 vs. Colorado, L 4-2 Last Game 3/4 vs. Dallas, W 4-2
4-4-2 Last 10 6-3-1

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