JETBLAST: CHICAGO @ WINNIPEG

JETBLAST

Chicago Blackhawks (27-18-3) at Winnipeg Jets (26-18-9) 7:00 p.m., MTS Centre,
TV: TSN3 Radio: TSN 1290
No team has dominated the Chicago Blackhawks like the Winnipeg Jets this season. With 3 wins, all in Chicago, the Jets now return home for two more match ups with the Hawks, the first of which taking place Friday night. Winnipeg has outscored Chicago 10-3 in their first three games and have dominated much of the play. You can bet the high flying Hawks are not happy about this and you know they will come out flying. With only 3 points seperating these two teams in the standings this is an enormous game, the Jets who are fighting so hard to hold on to a wild card spot, can now pull within just a single game of a divisional playoff spot. With their recent play however it is just as likely that the Hawks put them out of their misery. Jets and Hawks on a Friday night at the MTS Centre, Lets Go!

Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks have struggled a bit this season. Despite being in third place in the Central division, much more was expected of this team which has come to be known as a perennial contender. The Hawks have lost 3 of their last 4, failing to score in their last two losses. This game is the 6th of seventh game road trip for the Hawks who close out the trip Sunday in St. Louis. Much like the Jets, after a playoff spot looked pretty assured a week or two ago, a losing streak in the West is dangerous and now they are just 3 points ahead of the Jets, which has them only 4 and 5 points ahead of teams below the playoff line. The biggest shock for the Blackhawks this season is the lack of success on the man advantage. The Hawks are operating below 19%, an astonishing number for a team with this much skill. Kane, Toews, Keith, Sharp, it is a stacked couple units but for some reason they cannot get the job done. This may be a game to do it however as the Jets have struggled recently to kill penalties. If the Hawks can break out of their scoring slump this may be a really long night for the Jets and their fans.

Jets

5 straight losses for the Jets, as the streak gets longer the grip on a playoff spot loosens. The game in Vancouver did offer bright spots however, the Jets earned a single point and played strongly for much of the game. If not for a bad goal and some weak third period play, the Jets may have been able to pull off a win. It seemed once the Jets got the lead in the third they fell into a defensive shell, stopped attacking and just tried to survive, instead of pushing for another goal. That is never a good strategy in the NHL and we saw that again as the Canucks got the tying goal and then won it in overtime. This may have been due to having 5 games in 8 nights, or traveling from one side of the continent to other, whatever it was the Jets cannot afford to give up third period leads, and definitely cannot give up the chance for extra points in the standings. Winnipeg needs to respond and theres no better time than tonight against the Hawks. The name of the game will be defense, the Jets have given up 23 goals in the last 5 games and if they can’t do a better job of keeping the puck out of their net, the Hawks may destroy them.

Keys to the Game

No Distractions: All week the Jets have been surrounded by the Evander Kane scandal. Kane, who bailed on his teammates in Vancouver, refusing to show up after an altercation during morning workouts, now is on the injured reserve list and may have played his last game with Winnipeg. The Jets cannot allow this to effect them and must put Kane out of their minds, as he will hopefully soon be off their team. Kane adds a lot on the ice but Winnipeg can no longer accept his selfish behavior, they need to play their game and come together in the absence of their most polarizing player.

Discipline: The last time Winnipeg and Chicago met, Hawks forward Daniel Carcillo put a vicious cross check on the arm of Jets winger Mathieu Perreault. Carcillo received a 6 game suspension for the cross check and just so happens to be making his return tonight when the two teams meet again. Though it is unclear if Carcillo will dress or not, the Jets must be able to control their emotions. You cannot go hunting for revenge because if you end up in the box, the Hawks will make you pay on the scoreboard. The Jets will take their shots, but they need to toe the line and not end up in the sin bin.

Michael Hutchinson: Hutchinson is 3-0 against the Hawks this year, playing in every match up between the two teams. He stole the first game, a 1-0 shutout in Chicgao, and has been strong in every game. Though some recent struggles, the Hawks may be the exact cure Hutchinson needs. His stats can’t really go up, with a 1.00 GAA and .979 save percentage, but if he can play like that again the Jets have a good chance to win.

Starting Goalies

Michael Hutchinson (14-7-2) GAA: 2.25 SV% .924
Corey Crawford (19-12-2) GAA: 2.30 SV% .920

Injuries

Clitsome, WPG, (Back) out for season
Halischuk, WPG, (Undisclosed) out
Kane, WPG, (Shoulder) out

Versteeg, CHI, (Hand) out
van Riemsdyk, CHI, (Leg) out

Last 10 (W-L-OTL)

Jets: 4-6-0
Blackhawks: 5-4-1

Prediction

Hawks offense finally breaks out over Jets
Blackhawks 4 Jets 2

Become an MVP

Become an MVP with Winnipeg Whiteout and never miss a thing.

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