Streaking Hurricanes visit hobbled Blue Jackets

The Carolina Hurricanes may be a longshot to make the playoffs, but that won't stop them from trying to finish the season strong.

The Hurricanes try to post their longest winning streak in two years this evening as they battle the Columbus Blue Jackets.

With eight games to play, Carolina is six points behind the Capitals for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Hurricanes sit 11th overall in the East and have kept pace by posting a 6-2-2 mark over their last 10 games.

Carolina pushed its winning streak to a season-high four straight games on Wednesday with a 3-1 victory over Southeast Division-leading Florida. Eric Staal has his second straight two-goal game, while Joni Pitkanen also scored in his return to the lineup.

Cam Ward made 30 saves for the Hurricanes, who haven't won five straight since a seven-game run form Feb. 5-March 4, 2010. They have scored at least one goal in 10 straight periods.

"It's a tough thing to do, but I think since the All-Star break when we had the meeting, and let everyone know that we're playing with the big boys now, we've had a lot of guys step up," said Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller.

Staal has four goals and six points in his past three games, while Pitkanen scored in his first contest since Dec. 6 after missing the previous 44 games due to injury.

The Blue Jackets will hobble to the ice this evening with the fewest points in the NHL and having lost five of their past six games. Columbus was last in action on Tuesday when it fell behind by three goals early against Chicago en route to a 5-1 setback.

Steve Mason was tagged for all five goals on 27 shots for the Blue Jackets, who played without Fedor Tyutin (right hand), Curtis Sanford (left quadriceps), Derek MacKenzie (concussion) and James Wisniewski (upper body) due to injury. Columbus set a new club record with 345 man games lost due to injury this season.

That didn't help the Blue Jackets against a team as talented as the Blackhawks.

"They can score often and quickly," Blue Jackets interim head coach Todd Richards said of the Blackhawks. "I didn't think we were outplayed that badly in the first period, but we were looking up at a 3-0 game. Our guys fought through it and tried, but when you spot a team a three-goal lead, especially the Chicago Blackhawks, it's tough."

Rick Nash snapped a seven-goal goal drought, reaching 25 goals for an eighth straight season.

Though the all-time series between the Blue Jackets and Hurricanes is tied at 6-6-0, Columbus has won each of the past four encounters since its last loss in this series on Dec. 15, 2005 in Carolina.

The Blue Jackets are 3-2-0 versus the Hurricanes at home.