The Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets each look to bounce back from a loss when they open a set of back-to-back games Tuesday night in Columbus, Ohio.
The Blackhawks are coming off a 5-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday night, followed by a Saturday postponement, but they are 6-2-0 over their past eight contests. They wrap up a five-game road trip with games Tuesday and Thursday in Columbus.
Patrick Kane said he and his teammates could turn the latest loss against the division-leading Hurricanes into a positive.
“We’re trying to ingrain in our culture here where we bring that work ethic, that battle level every night,” Kane said. “(Carolina) is just a team that does that every night. You learn from those things. Be a good, hardworking team away from the puck. When you’re in a puck battle, win the puck battle and come out with it. It’s going to make the game easier.”
Now Chicago turns its attention to the Blue Jackets, who split a pair of home games with Nashville last week, with a 4-2 loss on Saturday. Boone Jenner and Gabriel Carlsson each scored for Columbus, which surrendered a whopping 45 shots on goal.
The Blue Jackets hope to snap out of a recent funk after winning only one of their last four games (1-2-1), since last beating the Blackhawks 6-5 on Feb. 11.
Columbus head coach John Tortorella ripped his team for having “zero concentration” in its latest defeat, calling the issue a “major concern.” Too many turnovers have been a specific problem.
Blue Jackets players agreed that they needed to be better.
“This team, for years, (has) had an identity, and I think we’ve lost that, just doing the little things on a nightly basis,” Columbus defenseman Michael Del Zotto said. “I know there’s more games (per week), but everyone’s going through it. … I think it’s just a matter of mental toughness.”
There also is a physical concern for the Blue Jackets, particularly after goaltender Elvis Merzlikins left Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury. He was replaced by teammate Joonas Korpisalo, who made six saves to finish the game.
Tortorella did not announce an update on Merzlikins’ availability for Tuesday. If he is unable to take the net, look for Korpisalo (5-4-3, 3.46 goals-against average, .889 save percentage) to make his 13th start of the season.
Chicago has relied heavily as of late on goaltender Kevin Lankinen (7-3-3, 2.42 GAA, .927 save percentage). The 25-year-old rookie from Finland quickly seized the No. 1 job this season ahead of teammates Malcolm Subban (2-1-1, 2.65 GAA, .917 save percentage) and Collin Delia (0-2-0, 5.00 GAA, .863 save percentage).
Kane leads the Blackhawks with 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists) in 19 games. He is three goals shy of 400 and eight games shy of 1,000 for his career.
Cam Atkinson (seven goals, seven assists) and Oliver Bjorkstrand (four goals, 10 assists) pace Columbus with 14 points apiece. Three more players each have 10 points.
This will be the fifth meeting of the season between the teams, with Columbus holding a 2-1-1 edge.
–Field Level Media