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Game #43 Preview/Gamethread: Two middling teams, the Blue Jackets and the Blackhawks, square off

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NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Chicago Blackhawks David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday, April 10, 2021 - 7:00 EST
Nationwide Arena, Columbus, OH
TV: Bally Sports Ohio; Radio: 97.1 FM
Opponent’s Blog: Second City Hockey

Chicago Blackhawks (18-18-5, 41 points, 5th Central)

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Columbus Blue Jackets (15-19-8, 38 points, 7th Central)

The Blue Jackets return to Nationwide Arena Saturday night to face the Chicago Blackhawks, with hopefully a different result than Thursday’s loss against Tampa. To the naked eye, the Blue Jackets seemed to play well Thursday. Tampa just played better. The Blue Jackets were moving the puck, had some nice chances, but unfortunately the first period dug too deep a hole. It was a treat to see a professional hockey game with so much scoring; too bad the majority wasn’t ours. I sympathized with Cam Atkinson, who was shooting his heart out, but just couldn’t convert. He’s now 10 games bereft of a scoring. You could blame the loss on the Law of Averages: we can’t beat Tampa every time, right?

One thing was for sure: my home was much calmer during Thursday’s loss. Being 7 points away from the last playoff spot can do that a fan. We may have even flipped the channel a few times. You could even see the new, relaxed demeanor on Tort’s face during the post-game presser. Expectation is the root of all heartache, said Shakespeare. But there are still games to play and chances to be won.

Players to Watch

Alas, not everything is doom and gloom for the red and blue. Max Domi is on an uptick: two goals the past two games with an above average face-off win percentage. We certainly need help with face-offs as Boone Jenner remains out of the line-up due to recent finger surgery. Jack Roslovic is also fighting back into favor with 2 goals and 3 assists this week. I’m always rooting for homegrown players, even if they play for the opposition (Connor Murphy is a staple on the Blackhawks’ defense). Zach Werenski has scored four goals over the past 10 games. We’re lucky to have prolific defenseman, despite Jonesy having an uncharacteristically quiet season. But wait! Word came today that Werenski will be out the remainder of the season for hernia surgery.

Jackets Notes

With Monday’s trade deadline looming, this may be the last night of a familiar line-up. Riley Nash has already been traded. David Savard is on the trading block. As a more casual hockey fan, I personally don’t enjoy all the trading this time of the season; it just feels disingenuous, and I’m too tired to make new acquaintances. Yet as an astute fan once told me, get attached to the team and not to individual players. Will Laine end his 22 game scoring drought? Snipers are streaky, but this is bad. Maybe the decrease in playoff pressure will turn his game around? I’m rooting for you Laine. Charismatic Elvis Merzlikins is not predicted to be in net, despite replacing Korpisalo after Thursday’s first period rout. Just when I think I know which goalie I favor, the tables turn. Either way, here’s hoping we get to see Elvis’ victorious guitar strumming before the season ends. Will Stenlund make the line-up as he deserves? Will the players be wearing their Christmas-y alternate uniforms? The anguish of suspense! Puck drops at 7pm.

The Other Bench

The good news is that Chicago has a losing streak on the road now, defeated the past 5 away games. This is despite having no injuries (boy we needed their trainers last year). However, they’re fighting and motivated to keep their playoff hopes alive. Chicago beat Columbus 2-0 at their last encounter Feb. 25 with this season’s record of 4-2-0 against Columbus. Their biggest threat is none other than the future Hall of Famer Patrick Kane, who has 51 points total this season with 13 goals and 37 assists. They also have the 6th ranked power play in the league (despite falling from 3rd), which means we need to stay out of the penalty box.

Season Series

Jan 29: CBJ 2 @ CHI 1
Jan 31: CBJ 1 @ CHI 3
Feb 11: CBJ 6 @ CHI 5
Feb 13: CBJ 2 @ CHI 3 (OT)
Feb 23: CHI 6 @ CBJ 5
Feb 25: CHI 2 @ CBJ 0
Apr 10: CHI @ CBJ
Apr 12: CHI @ CBJ

Stats

Chicago Columbus
2.73 (17) GPG 2.48 (28)
3.10 (22) GAPG 3.19 (24)
24.6% (6) PP% 14.1% (29)
73.0% (30) PK% 78.0% (21)
46.8% (28) 5v5 Shot Attempt % 46.2% (30)
46.1% (31) 5v5 Unblocked shot attempt % 47% (28)
7.3 (25) 5v5 Shot % 7.4 (23)
.910 (14) 5v5 Save % .905 (22)
Alex DeBrincat, 20 G Leader Oliver BJORKSTRAND, 14
Patrick Kane, 37 A Leader Jack Roslovic, 19
Patrick Kane, 51 P Leader Oliver BJORKSTRAND, 32
Nikita Zadarov, 31 PIM Leader Max Domi, 39
7-10-3 Home / Road 8-7-6
2-7-1 Last 10 4-6

Projected Lineups

Columbus Blue Jackets
Patrik Laine Alexander Texier Oliver Bjorkstrand
Eric Robinson Max Domi Nick Foligno
Mikhail Grigorenko Jack Roslovic Cam Atkinson
Stefan Matteau Zac Dalpe Kevin Stenlund
Gabriel Carlsson Seth Jones
Vladislav Gavrikov Michael Del Zotto
Mikko Lehtonen Dean Kukan
Joonas Korpisalo
Elvis Merzlikins
Chicago Blackhawks
Alex DeBrincat Kirby Dach Patrick Kane
Mattias Janmark Pius Suter Dylan Strome
Dominik Kubalik Phillipp Kurashev Vinnie Hinostroza
Brandon Hagel David Kampf Ryan Carpenter
Nikita Zadorov Connor Murphy
Duncan Keith Adam Boqvist
Calvin De Haan Wyatt Kalynuk
Kevin Lankinen
Malcolm Subban