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BLUE JACKETS (32-25-5) AT BLACKHAWKS (36-13-14)
TV: FS-O, CSN-CH
Last 10: Columbus 6-3-1; Chicago 4-4-2
Season series: This is the first of two games between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks, who used to be rivals in the Western Conference's Central Division before Columbus moved to the Eastern Conference this season.
Big story: Unlike the past few years, the matchup has significant meaning in the standings for each team.
Columbus bumped the Detroit Red Wings from the final wild-card spot in the East with a 4-2 victory against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday. The win also brought the Blue Jackets even in points with the third-place New York Rangers in the Metropolitan Division and within one point of the second-place Philadelphia Flyers.
Chicago lost 4-2 at home against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, and lost ground in the Central to both the third-place Avalanche and first-place St. Louis Blues.
Blue Jackets: Despite trading veteran goal-scorer Marian Gaborik to the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday, the Blue Jackets continue to push for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Columbus, 15-6-1 since New Year's Day, has responded to a three-game winless streak with three straight victories. The Blue Jackets remain solidly in the mix for the postseason picture and Artem Anisimov is leading the charge. He scored twice in the victory against Dallas and has scored the game-winning goal in each game of the current winning streak.
"He might be as good as we’ve seen him in a Columbus uniform," Columbus coach Todd Richards told the Columbus Dispatch. "Two huge goals for us [against the Stars], especially the last one with the way the game was going. I'm repetitive when I talk about him. He's a trustworthy guy and you’re starting to see the skill that he has. He’s starting to finish."
The Blue Jackets also added forward Matt Frattin in the Gaborik trade and acquired defenseman Nick Schultz from the Edmonton Oilers for depth.
Blackhawks: Chicago used to make a habit of racking up points against Columbus in the Central, and the Blackhawks would like that to continue. The defending Stanley Cup champions are in a tight playoff race of their own, but theirs is about positioning rather than qualification.
Chicago is locked into that three-team logjam at the top of its division and needs every point it can collect to keep hopes of winning the division afloat. The loss to the Avalanche was the Blackhawks' first game without injured two-way forward Marian Hossa and coach Joel Quenneville was not happy with the defensive effort.
"[That] was a game where we generated enough [scoring chances] that should have put us in a good spot," Quenneville said. "We're disappointed in the way things transpired there in the second and third [periods]."
Who's hot: Anisimov has five goals and six points for Columbus in four games since the 2014 Sochi Olympics. ... Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews scored for the second straight game with a third-period goal against Colorado and has three goals in the past two games.
Injury report: Blue Jackets defenseman Fedor Tyutin (ankle) is expected to miss two-to-three weeks. Forward Jared Boll (ankle surgery) is out three-to-four months and defenseman Ryan Murray (knee) is day-to-day. ... Chicago's Hossa (upper body) is expected to be out two-to-three weeks and veteran goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (rotator-cuff surgery) is on injured reserve.