Blue Jackets-Blackhawks Preview

The Chicago Blackhawks return from the holiday break atop the

Western Conference.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are in the NHL cellar.

Chicago tries to extend its season-best home winning streak to

five and hand the Blue Jackets a fifth consecutive defeat Monday

night.

After having a five-game win streak snapped with a 3-2 loss at

Pittsburgh the previous night, the Blackhawks (22-9-4) entered

their extended break with a conference-best 48 points following

Wednesday’s 5-1 victory over Montreal.

Chicago improved to 8-1-1 in December as Corey Crawford made 20

saves after backing up Ray Emery for six games.

“It felt great,” said Crawford, who had gone 3-3-0 with a 3.93

goals-against average in his previous eight games. “I was pretty

hungry to get back in there. It was a huge game before the

(Christmas) break to pick up points.”

The Blue Jackets (9-21-4) thought they were going to head into

the break on a positive note, but they lost 6-5 at Nashville on

Thursday after giving up the game’s last four goals – two in the

final 3:46.

Columbus, which has a league-low 22 points, has been outscored

46-23 in the third period this season.

“We play a great first two periods for so many games, and in the

third periods, we just collapse or whatever it is,” said rookie

center Ryan Johansen, who scored twice on the power play to snap a

16-game goal drought. “We practice all week working on our third

periods and things we should do a little smarter, and to get a loss

again in the third period like that is mentally tough.”

The bright spot Thursday was Jeff Carter recording the fastest

hat trick in franchise history, in a 3:18 span of the first period.

Seven of his 10 goals have come in the last seven games.

He will face the Blackhawks for the first time in a Blue Jackets

sweater after missing both meetings this season with a broken

foot.

Columbus has been routed in both games, losing by a combined

11-5 score. The Jackets went 0 for 5 on the power play in a 5-2

loss at Chicago on Oct. 29, but they make their second visit to the

United Center after setting a club record with four road power-play

goals Thursday.

Columbus is 6 for 14 with the man advantage in its last three

games.

The Blackhawks, though, have outscored opponents 16-6 during a

four-game home winning streak, their longest since a six-game run

Feb. 20-March 23.

If Crawford gets the nod again from coach Joel Quenneville,

he’ll try to beat the Blue Jackets for the third straight time

after stopping 27 shots in a 6-3 victory Nov. 10. Emery made the

same number of saves the last time Columbus was in town.

Chicago’s Patrick Kane, who has a team-best 25 assists, has more

points against the Blue Jackets (29) than any other team. He has

four goals and four assists in the last five meetings.

Marian Hossa has four goals and eight assists during a

seven-game point streak, and Jonathan Toews has been hot as well

with 10 goals and eight assists in his past 13 games.