Series (Game 5 of 6)

Chicago leads 4-2

Game 1: Tuesday, December 1st
Blue Jackets3Final
Game 2: Thursday, January 14th
Blue Jackets0Final
Game 3: Saturday, January 16th
Blue Jackets5
Game 4: Sunday, February 14th
Blue Jackets4
Game 5: Thursday, March 25th
Blue Jackets8
Game 6: Sunday, March 28th
Blue Jackets4Final

Blackhawks 3

(46-20-7, 99 pts)

Blue Jackets 8

(30-32-12, 72 pts)

7:00 PM ET, March 25, 2010

Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

1 2 3 T
CHI 0 1 23
CBJ 2 4 28

A. Vermette (Blue Jackets - C): Goals: 2, Assists: 1

K. Huselius (Blue Jackets - LW): Goals: 2, Assists: 0

J. Voracek (Blue Jackets - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 2

Blackhawks-Blue Jackets Preview


After winning what they proclaimed to be their biggest game of the season, the Chicago Blackhawks will try to avoid slipping up in their next four contests -- all against teams that have little chance of making the playoffs.

That stretch begins Thursday night at Nationwide Arena with the first of back-to-back games against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Blackhawks entered Tuesday night's game against Phoenix tied for first in the Western Conference and facing an opponent that had won nine in a row. Chicago ended that run with a 2-0 victory and emerged with a one-point lead in the conference over San Jose.

Antti Niemi stopped 28 shots in his second shutout in three starts and sixth this season.

"We all know the meaning of the game and the implications of the conference," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Antti persevered to the end."

The Blackhawks (46-19-7) are within seven points of clinching their first division title in 17 years. They are all but assured of securing back-to-back playoff berths for the first time since a streak of 13 ended in 1996-97.

A victory over the Blue Jackets (29-32-12) would give them more wins than last season, when they compiled their highest total since 1992-93, and leave them six points shy of tying the franchise record set in 1970-71 and matched the next season.

Chicago should have a good chance to move closer to that point total over the next seven days. After facing Columbus twice, the Blackhawks play at St. Louis on March 30 and at Minnesota the next day.

Chicago has earned plenty of points at the Blue Jackets' expense this season and at Nationwide Arena since the beginning of 2008-09.

Winning the first four meetings this season has given the Blackhawks the chance to sweep the series for the first time. The teams meet again Sunday night at the United Center.

The Blackhawks went 4-0-1 in their last five in Columbus, with each game in that span decided by one goal or in a shootout. Chicago, however, has won two in a row only once since a 5-4 shootout victory at Columbus on Feb. 14.

The Blackhawks won four straight going into the Olympic break, but are 5-4-2 and 1-3-1 away from home since play resumed.

Columbus has dropped two in a row following a 4-0-1 stretch -both on the road. After a 1-0 overtime defeat to Nashville on Saturday, the Blue Jackets suffered a 6-3 loss to New Jersey on Tuesday night.

The Devils broke open the game by scoring four second-period goals against Steve Mason, who has gone 1-5-2 with a 3.86 goals-against average in his last eight starts.

"We still could have won the game. After the first period, the game was still up for grabs," interim coach Claude Noel said. "We didn't come out like we needed to come out. That's the disappointing thing."

The defeat put Columbus on the verge of elimination from postseason contention after making the first appearance in franchise history in 2008-09. A Detroit win Wednesday night, coupled with a Blue Jackets regulation loss Thursday, would end those playoff hopes.

To bolster its slim chances, Columbus will have to beat Cristobal Huet, who is slated to make his first start since March 13 on Thursday. Huet has won all three matchups against the Blue Jackets this season and shut them out Jan. 14, although he gave up five goals in a Jan. 16 victory at Nationwide Arena.