The Chicago Blackhawks scored 10 goals for the first time in almost 29 years to get the season off to a rousing start and hope to continue that kind of production when they host the stingy Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday. The Blackhawks scored just three goals while getting swept by Nashville in the first round last postseason but pounded defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh 10-1 in their 2017-18 opener on Thursday.
“We had a lot to prove,” Chicago left wing Ryan Hartman told reporters after recording a career-high five points in the win. “I can’t really say we’re angry still. It’s a new season, but we wanted to come out ready and show that we’re a contender.” Patrick Kane added four points in the opener and the Blackhawks also received a hat trick from Brandon Saad, who was re-acquired from Columbus for Artemi Panarin in a major offseason trade. The Blue Jackets were just as impressive in their opener Friday, receiving three assists from Panarin and 29 saves from Sergei Bobrovsky en route to a 5-0 home victory over the New York Islanders. “Saader lights it up (on opening night),” Columbus coach John Tortorella told reporters. “They have a good player there in Chicago. We have a pretty damn good one here (in Panarin).”
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, FSN Ohio (Columbus), WGN (Chicago)
ABOUT THE BLUE JACKETS (1-0-0): Pierre-Luc Dubois, the third overall pick in the 2016 draft, scored in his NHL debut on Friday and 21-year-old Sonny Milano added his first career tally in his eighth game. Cam Atkinson, who netted a career-high 35 goals last season, also scored while Alexander Wennberg chipped in with a pair of assists as the Blue Jackets outshot the Islanders 37-29 overall and 31-18 over the first two periods. Columbus already is getting contributions from its defense corps again this season as Ryan Murray and Zach Werenski each tallied in the opener.
ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (1-0-0): Nick Schmaltz, who registered two goals and an assist while centering Hartman and Kane in the opener, reportedly skated during Friday’s practice after leaving the win over Pittsburgh with a leg injury. Saad was reunited with captain Jonathan Toews on a line with Richard Panik while Artem Anisimov centered another line that included veteran Patrick Sharp, who scored a goal to reach 600 points in his career. Corey Crawford was sharp in the opener with 28 saves and is 12-4-2 with a 2.18 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in his career against Columbus.
1. Bobrovsky, who posted his 20th career shutout Friday, is 5-3-1 with a 2.52 GAA and .923 save percentage against the Blackhawks.
2. Chicago C Tanner Kero (lower body) is considered questionable for Saturday, which could get RW Tommy Wingels into the lineup.
3. The Blue Jackets have won four of the last six meetings after splitting the two-game series with the Blackhawks last season.
PREDICTION: Blackhawks 4, Blue Jackets 3