Most of the hype for teams returning to the Central Division in 2021 focused on the renewed rivalry between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings. But another former Central Division foe came back this season, as well: The Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Blackhawks and Blue Jackets were together in the Central Division from 2000, when the Blue Jackets first debuted in the NHL to 2013. During that span, Chicago was 43-23-5 with two ties against Columbus, and have been 8-4-2 against the Blue Jackets since the 2013 realignment.
They square off for the first time this year tonight and Sunday.
• The Blackhawks enter this series on a five-game points streak, having gone 2-0-3 over that span. While points are great, the reality is that Chicago has won only two of their eight games so far this season and both came against the Detroit Red Wings. A regulation win over the Central Division leaders could do wonders for the Blackhawks mentally.
• The young players have stepped up at different points through the first eight games of the season and have been big parts of the Blackhawks’ recent five-game stretch. Pius Suter, Brandon Hagel, and Kevin Lankinen have been enjoyable to watch in their NHL debuts.
• Columbus is a deep team with two very good goaltenders. They are still waiting on newly acquired winger Patrick Laine to join them following the trade with the Winnipeg Jets. Once he makes his way to Columbus, the Blue Jackets could be an even bigger problem in the Central Division.
Puck Drops and Broadcast Info
• Friday, January 29 at 7 p.m. CT
TV: NBCSCH, FS-O, NHLN, SNW, SNP, TVAS
Radio: WGN 720 AM
• Sunday, January 31 at 6 p.m. CT
TV: NBCSN, FS-O
Radio: WGN 720 AM
Blackhawks (2-3-3, 7 pts)
Janmark – Suter – Kane
Kubalík – Strome – Kurashev
Hagel – Söderberg– Shaw
Highmore – Kämpf – Carpenter
Keith – Carlsson
De Haan – Mitchell
Zadorov – Murphy
Lankinen / Subban / Delia
Blue Jackets (3-2-3, 9 points)
Foligno – Texier – Bjorkstrand
Grigorenko – Domi – Foudy
Jenner – Roslovic – Atkinson
Robinson – Koivu – Nash
Gavrikov – Jones
Werenski – Savard
Del Zotto – Kukan
Merzlikins / Korpisalo
Tale of the Tape
Blackhawks: 36.0% (5th)
Blue Jackets: 9.1% (27th)
Blackhawks: 78.8% (15th)
Blue Jackets: 88.2% (6th)
Blackhawks: 47.9% (24th)
Blue Jackets: 47.3% (25th)
Goals Per Game
Blackhawks: 2.75 (20th)
Blue Jackets: 2.50 (22nd)
Goals Against Per Game
Blackhawks: 3.38 (24th)
Blue Jackets: 2.88 (18th)
Blackhawks: Patrick Kane (3 Goals, 4 Assists) 7 points
Blue Jackets: Tied – Alexandre Texier (3 Goals, 3 Assists), Oliver Bjorkstrand (2 Goals, 4 Assists) 6 points
Brent Seabrook (IR – Lower Back)
Zack Smith (IR – Back)
Kirby Dach (LTIR – Out 4-5 months – Wrist)
Alex Nylander (LTIR – Out 4-6 months – Knee)
Jonathan Toews (LTIR – Illness)
Alex DeBrincat (Day-to-day – COVID Protocol)
Adam Boqvist (Day-to-day – COVID Protocol)
Lucas Wallmark (Day-to-day – COVID Protocol)
Patrik Laine (Day-to-day)
Gustav Nyquist (Out Indefinitely – Shoulder)
Brandon Dubinsky (LTIR – Wrist)
Keep An Eye Out For
Blackhawks creating offense that is not on the powerplay. The Blackhawks have had a lot of success on the man-advantage this season. Their powerplay ranks fifth in the NHL and started the year with a goal in each of the first seven games of the season. But Chicago is one of six teams to start this season with 50% or fewer of their goals coming at 5v5 even strength. If they are going to have sustainable success this season, it will have to come from higher offensive production when not on the powerplay.
Blue Jackets one-two punch in net. Columbus once had two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky, and when he left town, a lot of people thought it would bottom-out the Blue Jackets. They were wrong, because the tandem of Elvis Merzlikins and Jonas Korpisalo have emerged as two legitimate starting-quality goaltenders in the league. Last season, Columbus ranked fifth in the league in team save percentage (.913) and had the second-most shutouts (7). Both goalies again are off to good starts with Korpisalo holding down a .928 save percentage. Their team save percentage is at .914 to begin this season, tied for eighth in the NHL.