Welcome to the NHL on Tap. Three NHL.com writers will share what they are most looking forward to on the schedule each day. Today, their choices from the one game Friday, which will see the Columbus Blue Jackets play the Chicago Blackhawks.
Jones vs. Kane
The game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NHLN, SNW, SNP, TVAS, NBCSCH, FS-O, NHL.TV) will be the first of eight games this season, and six during the next month, between Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones and Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane. Since the start of the 2018-19 season, Jones is third in the NHL with an average ice time of 25:36 per game. Since Kane entered the NHL in 2007-08, his 1,029 points (392 goals, 637 assists) are third among all players, behind Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals (1,085 points) and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins (1,048). During a normal season, Jones and Kane would play against each other twice because Columbus is in the Eastern Conference and Chicago is in the Western Conference. But with their teams realigned in the Discover Central Division this season, it should be fun to see how often they are on the ice against each other and how each player adjusts from game to game. They’ll play again in Chicago on Sunday, and on Feb. 11 and Feb. 13, then in Columbus on Feb. 23, Feb. 25, April 10 and April 12. — Tom Gulitti, staff writer
Atkinson looks for more goals
I’m looking forward to seeing if Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson can rediscover his scoring touch. He scored his first goal of the season in the Blue Jackets’ 4-3 shootout loss to the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. Columbus is hoping that Atkinson, who has scored three points (one goal, two assists) in eight games, can pick up the scoring pace to boost an offense that is averaging 2.50 goals per game. Atkinson was sixth in the NHL with 41 goals in 2018-19, his sixth straight scoring at least 20. But injuries limited him to 12 goals in 44 games last season. — Bill Douglas, staff writer
The kids are all right
They’re not really kids, but the Blackhawks do have several rookies who are playing well right now. Goalie Kevin Lankinen, 25, is 2-0-2 with a 2.18 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage in four games, all starts. Forward Pius Suter, 24, has scored four points (three goals, one assist) in eight games, including his first NHL hat trick, against the Detroit Red Wings, on Sunday. Forward Philipp Kurashev, 21, has scored two goals in seven games and forward Brandon Hagel, 22, scored his first NHL point, an assist on Ryan Carpenter‘s goal against the Nashville Predators on Wednesday. These players are part of Chicago’s rebuild. Let’s see how their progression continues against the Blue Jackets. — Tracey Myers, staff writer
Columbus Blue Jackets at Chicago Blackhawks, 8 p.m. ET (NHLN, TVAS, SNW, SNP, NBCSCH, FS-O, NHL.TV)
The Blue Jackets can extend their points streak to seven games; they’re 3-0-3 in their past six after a 3-2 shootout win against the Florida Panthers on Thursday.