By Andy Lefkowitz
Chicago (37-22-9)_at Columbus (26-28-6), 7:00 p.m. EDT
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Columbus Blue Jackets have yet to
play in the postseason since entering the NHL in 2000. Twelve
games remain in this regular season, and each will have the feel
of playoff hockey as they look to end that skid.
Coming off a shutout loss, the Blue Jackets host the struggling
Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night in the teams’ second
matchup in less than a week.
Columbus (36-28-6) is in third place in the Central Division,
five points behind Chicago (37-22-9), which hasn’t been to the
postseason since 2002. The Blue Jackets, sixth in the Western
Conference, are 1-1-1 against the Blackhawks this season, but
have dropped three of the last four against their division rival
at Nationwide Arena.
That includes a 4-3 shootout defeat in the most recent matchup
there on Nov. 1, when Columbus was 1-for-10 on the power play.
R.J. Umberger, who had 10 goals in 17 postseason games last
season with Philadelphia, said Columbus needs to play with a
sense of urgency from here on out.
“They’re all playoff games right now,” he told the Blue Jackets’
official Web site. “You have to man up this time of year.”
Following impressive wins over Central Division-best Detroit,
Eastern Conference-leading Boston and always-dangerous
Pittsburgh, Ken Hitchcock’s club extended its winning streak
with a 5-3 victory on Friday in Chicago. The Blue Jackets
weren’t sharp at all Sunday, though, losing 4-0 at home to the
Columbus captain Rick Nash scored Columbus’ final goal into an
empty net last week against the Blackhawks, and has tallied six
of his team-leading 33 over the last six games.
Also the Jackets’ points leader with 66, Nash needs four more
for a new career high. The top overall draft pick from 2002
notched 69 points last season to pace the club.
Chicago (37-22-9) hasn’t shown a sense of urgency lately, and
the continued absence of Patrick Sharp could be part of the
A 23-goal scorer who had a team-best 36 last season, Sharp has
missed 14 games since suffering a left knee injury on Feb. 14.
He has resumed skating, but there is no timetable for his
Chicago won its first three games without its high-scoring
center, but has gone 3-7-1 since. The Blackhawks lost 3-2 on
Tuesday at New Jersey as the Devils’ Martin Brodeur earned his
552nd career win to break Patrick Roy’s all-time record among
Cam Barker and Dustin Byfuglien scored for Chicago, and Nikolai
Khabibulin finished with 27 saves after allowing two goals in
the first 6:01.
Khabibulin has permitted seven goals to lose both of his starts
since missing 12 games with a groin injury, possibly paving the
way for Cristobal Huet to get the start in this contest.
Huet, who needs one win to reach 20 for the second straight
season, made 17 saves in Friday’s loss to the Blue Jackets. The
French native made his only career start in Columbus a memorable
one, stopping a career-high 48 shots on Nov. 1.