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Pressure's on Blue Jackets against Blackhawks

By Andy Lefkowitz

Stats Editor

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

Red Wings.

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.


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