PREVIEW: Columbus Blue Jackets look to strike twice against Blackhawks

Feb 11, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Kevin Stenlund (11) scores a goal on Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Kevin Lankinen (32) during the third period at United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets will go for their third straight win — and their second in a row against the Blackhawks — when they take the ice Saturday night in Chicago.

Columbus is coming off a 6-5 win over the Blackhawks on Thursday in the opener of a back-to-back set. It marked the Blue Jackets’ highest-scoring game of the season.

Chicago led 3-1 and 4-2 before Columbus rallied. Michael Del Zotto scored with 2:41 remaining in the third period to even the score at 5-all, and Kevin Stenlund provided the go-ahead goal with 1:14 to go.

“This is an avenue that we’re going to have to find more often, is to outscore a team,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “We haven’t done (it) that often, so this is a road we haven’t been down too often.”

The loss snapped a terrific stretch for Chicago, which had earned at least one point in 10 of its previous 11 games. It was only the second regulation-time loss for the Blackhawks since Jan. 22.

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“We did little things as the game went on that gave them momentum,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. “We’ve got to manage the puck better and have some killer instinct in the third period when we have the lead.”

Blackhawks goaltender Kevin Lankinen endured a rare difficult night in what has been a strong rookie season. The Finland native allowed six goals on 43 shots after giving up three goals or fewer in seven of his last eight games.

Chicago could go back to Lankinen (5-2-3, 2.55 goals-against average, .924 save percentage) for another appearance against the Blue Jackets, or it could give a turn in net to backup options Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia. Subban is 1-1-1 with a 2.93 GAA and .913 save percentage, while Delia is 0-2-0 with a 5.00 GAA and .863 save percentage.

For Columbus, goaltender Joonas Korpisalo picked up a victory despite giving up five goals on 26 shots. He improved to 5-3-2 with a 3.34 GAA and .893 save percentage. Fellow netminder Elvis Merzlikins is 2-2-1 with a 2.76 GAA and .913 save percentage while making five starts, compared with Korpisalo’s 10 starts.

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The Blue Jackets are led on offense by Oliver Bjorkstrand, who has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 15 games. Cam Atkinson ranks second on the scoring list with 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 15 games, and Jack Roslovic is third with nine points (four goals, five assists) in only eight contests.

Chicago’s top scorer is Patrick Kane, who has 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) in 15 games. Alex DeBrincat has 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 11 games, and Dominik Kubalik has 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 15 games.

Atkinson offered high praise for Kane from an opponent’s point of view.

“He’s one of the most dangerous players, especially when he’s feeling it,” he said. “Everyone seems to keep their eyes on him when he has the puck, and that’s when he makes those plays and seam passes. Luckily, we came out on the winning end (Thursday).”

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–Field Level Media