With an eye on the future, both the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets continue to fight in the present.
The visiting Blackhawks look for a fifth straight victory over the struggling Blue Jackets on Monday night.
Both clubs are outside of the top four playoff spots in the Central Division, but Chicago sits fifth, just two points behind fourth-place Nashville. The seventh-place Blue Jackets are five points behind the Blackhawks.
Looking past this season, Columbus has already dealt coveted defenseman David Savard and center Riley Nash in exchange for draft picks. The Blue Jackets continued that trend Sunday evening by trading captain Nick Foligno to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a pair of draft picks, including Toronto’s 2021 first-rounder.
Chicago, meanwhile, recently sent Lucas Carlsson and Lucas Wallmark to Florida in exchange for three players and might also move the likes of forward Mattias Janmark.
On the ice, the Blackhawks overcame an early 2-0 hole to win 4-3 at Columbus on Saturday night, and Monday they aim to win successive games for the first time since March 23 and 25. Alex DeBrincat had a goal with an assist Monday, and rookie Kevin Lankinen regrouped after giving two goals in the first 3:13 of the contest to make 23 saves.
“I like the way we responded after going down, but lots to work on. No question,” said Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton, whose club has won five straight at Columbus dating to the 2018-19 season.
DeBrincat has scored five of his 21 goals, and posted seven points, over his last seven games. He has three goals with five assists in five games against Columbus this season. Teammate Patrick Kane, meanwhile, has posted four goals with 10 assists while Chicago has won five of seven from the Blue Jackets in 2021.
Lankinen has won two of his last three starts and is 4-2-0 against Columbus despite posting a 3.14 goals-against average. Backup Malcolm Subban recorded his lone shutout of the season with a 26-save effort during a 2-0 win at Columbus on Feb. 25.
The Blue Jackets’ Cam Atkinson scored his 14th goal on Saturday as his team fell to 2-8-1 over the last 11 games. Atkinson has four goals with six assists in the seven games against Chicago this year.
With three points in three games, Atkinson continues to step up while fellow key contributors Zach Werenski and Boone Jenner are out with injuries, and others are either scratched or already traded. Yet, he realizes it’s also partially his responsibility to make sure leads don’t get away from the club, as occurred Saturday.
“The one thing that we can control is our work ethic,” Atkinson said. “I think we got away from that (after the early part of Saturday’s game) and it showed. The onus is on us to be leaders.”
Elvis Merzlikins made 24 saves in losing his fourth straight start. He’s yielded seven goals in losing both of his starts against Chicago this season. Teammate Joonas Korpisalo is 2-1-2 against the Blackhawks with a 2.95 GAA.
–Field Level Media