JETBLAST: CHICAGO @ WINNPIEG

JETBLAST

Chicago Blackhawks (44-24-6)  at Winnipeg Jets (39-24-12) 6:30 p.m., MTS Centre,
TV: City Radio: TSN 1290
How fast a playoff race can change in the NHL was on full display this week, and two teams deeply involved in that race face off in a huge match up at the MTS Centre tonight. The Winnipeg Jets welcome their division rivals the Chicago Blackhawks, who all of a sudden find themselves out of the divisional race, and into the wild card hunt. The Jets have gone 3-0-1 against the Hawks this year, Chicago won the last match up 2-1 in overtime in Winnipeg February 6th. It’s Jets and Blackhawks in a game with major playoff implications, Lets Go!

Blackhawks

As losers of three of their last four, and after watching Minnesota win back to back games this weekend, the Hawks find themselves displaced from the divisional playoff spot they have held for months and now pushed into the first wild card spot. Though they still have the advantage with two extra games remaining, this has to be a bit of a wake up call for the Hawks. It doesn’t get any easier for them as matching up with Winnipeg has been a struggle all season. Chicago has picked up just 2 of a possible 8 points, an have struggled to score goals as Michael Hutchinson has stone walled then in every match up. They do escape Hutchinson tonight as instead they face red hot Ondrej Pavelec. Though they are missing Patrick Kane, perhaps their best scorer, this team is still stacked and is sure to come out hard to try and reclaim their spot from the Wild

Jets

Another impressive performance from the Jets Thursday when they beat up on the Montreal Canadiens 5-2 has them sitting in a favorable position heading into the last couple weeks of the season. Combined with a little bit of help from the Minnesota Wild, the Jets pulled 3 points up on Calgary for the last playoff spot, finally creating a little separation. Now the Jets get another crack at the Chicago Blackhawks. Though they have had success against Chicago this season, the Hawks still pose a massive threat every night and could very easily put up four or five and send you home unhappy. The Jets do appear to be getting reinforcements however. Friday night marked the return of Dustin Byfuglien and tonight look like it will be Mathieu Perreaults return to action. Perreault has not played since February 16th but was having a very impressive year. After a slow start Perreault notched 18 goals and 18 assists in his 56 games this season, and the way he was playing he was well in the way to career highs in all offensive categories. Winnipeg tries to stay hot and widen the gap between playoff and non playoff teams tonight in a rocking MTS Centre.

Keys to the Game

Chemistry: For the first time in a while the lineup for the Jets is a little unclear. Coach Paul Maurice has used the same lineup in the last 7 or 8 games with a lot of success, but now with the return of Perreault there will need to be some shuffling. Which line do you break up and where does he get inserted? Wherever it is the Jets need to adjust fast as there is no time for feeling out periods, they need to be flying on every line and every shift.

Home magic: The Jets have won seven of their last eight and more impressively are 12-2-2 at home since the All Star break. The crowds have been louder and the team is playing with more energy. If they can keep this up and continue to play smart the playoffs are right around the corner.

Scoreboard Watching: The Jets finally got some help from the teams around them and boy were they due. In the last two nights Minnesota has beaten both Calgary and LA, giving the Jets some breathing room while moving themselves up the standings. Winnipeg now has a 3 point lead on Calgary, 2 on LA, and are 1 point behind Vancouver. Chicago now holds the other wild card spot and are 4 points up on the Jets. Calgary is in Nashville tonight to face the Predators

Starting Goalies

Ondrej Pavelec (19-14-7) GAA: 2.35 SV% .919
Corey Crawford (30-17-5) GAA: 2.29 SV% .923

Injuries

Clitsome, WPG, (Back) out for season
Perreault, WPG, (LBI) day-to-day
Little, WPG, (Undisclosed) out
Chiarot, WPG, (Broken Hand) out
Postma, WPG, (LBI) day-to-day

Hjalmarsson, CHI, (Hand) day-to-day
Nordstrom, CHI, (UBI) day-to-day
Kane, CHI, (Broken Clavicle) out

Last 10 (W-L-OTL)

Jets: 7-3-0
Blackhawks: 6-3-1

Prediction

Jets beat Hawks for an impressive fourth time this season, widen the gap between playoff and non playoff teams.
Jets 3 Blackhawks 2

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Diehard Winnipeg sports fan. Agree or disagree with something I wrote? Find me on twitter @seantheoilcan and let me know Go Jets Go!

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