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The Blackhawks Look to Extend Winning Streak Against Faceless Blue Jackets
Jack Johnson was added at the trade deadline last season to anchor the blueline but he has been held without a point so far this season. Newly acquired goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has put together a commendable effort between the pipes, posting a 1-1-1 record and .913 save percentage.
Fortunately for the Blackhawks, Steve Mason is expected to start for the Blue Jackets. During his career against Chicago, Mason has put together a 6-8-0 record with a .882 save percentage and 3.69 GAA. The Phoenix Coyotes lit him up in his only appearance so far this season and he allowed five goals in the regulation loss. To be fair, the Coyotes peppered him with 42 shots on net -- then again that is a number that is easily attainable with the firepower in the Blackhawks line-up.
Fresh faced Cam Atkinson is expected to be a big contributor this season. He scored a goal against the Red Wings, but has missed time due to an injury. Atkinson was not present in the pre-game practice and remains questionable for tonight's game. In the mean time, the Blue Jackets have relied on familiar faces in Vinny Prospal, RJ Umberger, Derek Brassard, and Fedor Tyutin to produce for them on a struggling offense that has only averaged 1.5 goals per game.
As the Blue Jackets are dealing with early season struggles the Blackhawks have surged to the top of the league standings with a 4-0-0 record and an offense that has averaged 4.25 goal per game. The power play exploded by scoring three goals on the Dallas Stars and extended the streak to four games straight with a goal on the man-advantage. The Blackhawks have stressed the importance of having a successful special teams unit and it has made a huge impact in every game. The power play ranks 7th in the league with a 30% conversion rate and the penalty kill is currently 3rd in the league with a 91.7% kill rate.
Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa have been producing offense like a machine and perhaps overshadowing the point per game production by Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, and Nick Leddy. However the offensive contributions aren't just restricted to the top two lines... 16 players on the Blackhawks have already registered a point out of the 21 players that have dressed in a game. Only two other teams have exceeded that type of depth production: the Tampa Bay Lightning and Ottawa Senators.
Corey Crawford will get the start for the Blackhawks and has seen a lot of success against the Blue Jackets. Over eight career games against Columbus, Crawford has put together a 6-2-0 record, 2.24 goals against average, and a .934 save percentage. So far this season Corey has played well while posting a 3-0-0 record along with a .923 save percentage and 1.98 goals against average.
Last game I stated that the Blackhawks would pepper the Stars, but Kari Lehtonen was capable of stealing the win. He didn't win the game for the Stars, but he did put together an impressive performance. Don't expect that type of performance from Steve Mason. This game is a recipe of disaster for the ailing Columbus Blue Jackets: the Blackhawks are red-hot and Blue Jackets are totally-not. Expect the game to get pretty chippy as the Blackhawks run up the scoreboard against a team that needs a re-fuel upfront.
ACROSS THE POND: Scott Gomez will debut with the San Jose Sharks at 3:00 p.m. CST against the Colorado Avalanche, the Sharks are undefeated so far this season ... Jaromir Jagr is nursing a lower back injury and will not suit up against the St. Louis Blues, however the Stars re-signed Jamie Benn and he will suit up ...The Toronto Maple Leafs will play their first game this season without Joffery Lupul ... The Philadelphia Flyers have signed Mike Knuble to fill the void in Scott Hartnell's absence ...
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