The Chicago Blackhawks have won plenty of games in recent weeks, but they’re looking to extend another winning streak Saturday night as they take on the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Hawks have won 13 straight games against their former Central Division rivals, and this time around Columbus is dealing with almost unimaginably bad luck on the injury front. According to Rick Gethin of Fox Sports Ohio, the Blue Jackets will have already lost 209 man-games to injury when the puck drops against Chicago. For some context, last year in 82 games, the Blue Jackets lost 245 man-games to injury.
All of those injuries have caused the Jackets to shuffle up their lineup in a big way, and that means former Blackhawk Jeremy Morin will have a big role. In two games with Columbus, he has one assist and a plus-one rating, and he will be tasked with extra responsibility Saturday as he moves up to the team’s second line.
On the other side of the ice, the Blackhawks will get a couple of key players back to help combat the Columbus offense. Duncan Keith will be back in the lineup after missing Tuesday’s game due to illness, and Corey Crawford will also return to the net to start after missing the last eight games with a lower-body injury.
For the Hawks, the key in this game will not only be to get good performances from the guys returning on the defensive side of the ice, but they will also have to shake off the rust on offense as well. The team hasn’t played a game since Tuesday, and they haven’t had a lay-off like that in a long time. Good puck movement around the zone and dedication to their transition game will be key against Columbus, and adding netfront traffic to the mix with Sergei Bobrovsky in the crease for the Blue Jackets will also be critical.
One player to really keep an eye on in this game is Patrick Sharp. He has one goal and one assist in the five games since he returned from a lower-body injury, but he loves playing against Columbus. In 46 career games against the Blue Jackets, Sharp has 26 goals (his most against any team) and 19 assists (second most, behind the 26 helpers he has against the St. Louis Blues).
Playing on the third line hasn’t been all that great for him in terms of scoring opportunities, but if he can assert himself on the power play and take advantage of Keith’s return with his penchant for getting open for stretch passes up the ice, Sharp could potentially have a good game.