Columbus Blue Jackets (34-35-4) at Chicago Blackhawks (44-23-6), 8:30 p.m. (ET)

(SportsNetwork.com) – The Columbus Blue Jackets may not be headed back to the
playoffs, but lately the club has been making it difficult for potential
postseason clubs.

The Blue Jackets will try for an eighth win in nine games on Friday when they
visit the Chicago Blackhawks, who hope to avoid another disappointing effort
in their push to the postseason.

Chicago is third in the Central Division with 94 points, but has lost two of
its last three tilts. The Blackhawks have been outscored by a combined total
of 8-1 in two recent setbacks, which were briefly interrupted by a 3-1 win at
Carolina on Monday.

The Blackhawks were blanked 4-0 in Dallas on Saturday, and after beating the
Hurricanes, they suffered a 4-1 defeat Thursday night in Philadelphia. The
loss against the Flyers gave Chicago a 2-2-0 mark on a four-game road trip.

Philadelphia jumped out to a 3-0 lead before cruising to the victory over the
Blackhawks. Chicago scored it’s lone goal, a power-play tally off the stick of
Andrew Shaw, at 2:24 of the third period. Shaw has three goals over the last
two games.

“We didn’t play smart road games this road trip and we have to be better than
we have been,” said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews.

Chicago holds a three-point lead over Minnesota for the final automatic
playoff bid from the Central and also own a game in hand over the fourth-place
Wild. Minnesota is hosting Calgary on Friday.

The Blackhawks will follow up tonight’s test by visiting Winnipeg on Sunday.
Chicago is 22-9-5 as the host and has claimed four of its last five at United
Center.

Columbus made the playoffs for only the second time in club history last
spring, but the Jackets find themselves 13 points out of a postseason berth in
the Eastern Conference.

However, the Blue Jackets have been playing some of their best hockey in
recent months over the last few weeks. The club’s current four-game winning
streak gives it a 7-1-0 mark in the last eight trips to the ice.

Columbus has scored 18 times over the last four outings and is coming off
Tuesday’s 5-3 win against visiting Anaheim. Scott Hartnell continued his hot
play in the month of March with a hat trick as he powered the Columbus Blue
Jackets to victory.

Hartnell notched his third multi-goal effort of the month and has potted 11 of
his 25 goals during that span.

Ryan Johansen tallied a goal and an assist, Nick Foligno also scored and
Sergei Bobrovsky made 37 saves for the Blue Jackets.

“We needed to have this type of win at home,” Columbus head coach Todd
Richards said. “We haven’t had enough of that.”

Columbus hopes to keep up the pace on the road, where it will play tonight
before completing a two-game swing Saturday against St. Louis. The Blue
Jackets have been on the road this season than at home, going 20-15-2 as the
guest compared to a 14-20-2 mark in Ohio.

The Blue Jackets will not have forward Jared Boll for the next three games
after he was suspended for an illegal check to the head of Anaheim’s Patrick
Maroon. Boll will be eligible to return Thursday against the New York
Islanders.

Columbus will aim for a two-game sweep of its season series versus the
Blackhawks tonight. The Blue Jackets had lost 13 straight (0-10-3) versus
Chicago before posting a 3-2 shootout win on Dec. 20.

The Blackhawks still own a six-game winning streak at home against Columbus.