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Blackhawks-Blue Jackets Preview
By JEFF MEZYDLO
(AP) -- If the Columbus Blue Jackets are to win consecutive games for the first time in a little more than three weeks, they must find a way to end their prolonged struggles against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blue Jackets' pursuit of their second-ever playoff appearance continues Friday night when they try to avoid a 13th straight defeat to the visiting Blackhawks and extend the defending Stanley Cup champions' season-high road skid to six games.
Columbus (39-30-7) maintained its hold on the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with a 2-0 victory at Philadelphia on Thursday. Sergei Bobrovsky made 37 saves for this fourth shutout of the season for the Blue Jackets, who lead ninth-place Toronto by one point but moved within two of the Flyers for third in the Metropolitan Division.
"We're in a good position," said forward Brandon Dubinsky, who scored his 16th of the season. "It's not like where we were last year when we had to continue to watch and hope and chase teams. We're right where we want to be."
Though the Blue Jackets are in the midst of a 2-0-1 stretch, they haven't won two in a row since March 8-11 and have totaled 12 goals while dropping five of six at home.
"Our eyes have got to stay on the prize," Dubinsky said. "It's Chicago (on Friday) and we've got to focus on that and be ready to go."
The Blue Jackets don't expect things to be easy against Chicago (43-19-15), which owns a 51-20 goal advantage during its 12-game series winning streak. The Blackhawks have won eight straight at Columbus since an 8-3 loss March 25, 2010. The Blue Jackets have managed five goals in the last four versus Chicago at home.
Jonathan Toews and Andrew Shaw each scored twice during Chicago's 6-1 home rout of Columbus on March 6.
Already without star forward Patrick Kane (knee) for the remainder of the regular season, the Blackhawks lost Toews for the same amount of time to an upper-body injury suffered during a 4-1 loss at Pittsburgh on Sunday. However, they got back on track without their captain and snapped a three-game slide with a 3-2 shootout win over Minnesota on Thursday.
"We played the way we had to play," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Playing it simple, advancing the puck, a check-first mentality.
"It was important we did things the right way."
Chicago has already clinched a playoff berth, but it's totaled eight goals during an 0-4-1 road slide that is the team's longest such skid since going 0-9-2 in 2011-12.
"For us, we just need to simplify things with the guys out," said forward Bryan Bickell, who scored his 11th of the season in his return Thursday after missing six games with an upper-body injury. "We need to play smart, not cute."
Though Bickell is back, Chicago is expected to be without defenseman Johnny Oduya for a second straight contest after he was a last-minute scratch against the Wild with a lower-body injury.
Bickell has scored three of his five goals versus Columbus in his last five meetings.
Ryan Johansen scored one of his career-high 30 goals at Chicago last month for his second in three games against the Blackhawks.
Updated April 4, 2014