JETBLAST: WINNIPEG @ CHICAGO

JETBLAST

Winnipeg Jets (17-10-7)  at  Chicago Blackhawks (23-9-2) 7:30 p.m., United Center,
TV: TSN3 Radio: TSN 1290

We are only 2 sleeps for Christmas and all the Jets are looking for is Santa to bring them a really tough divisional win. The last time these teams met the Jets and Michael Hutchinson gave the Blackhawks one of their only nine losses this year. Hutch was brilliant and Michael Frolik gave the Jets all the offense they needed in that 1-0 win. This will be the second of 5 match ups between these two teams, and each game will be a challenge for the Jets. The Hawks are a model of the NHL team you want to build, and once again they are strong Stanley Cup contenders. It is always entertaining to watch Chicago play, and the Jets will need to be on top of their game if they want to get two points. Both of these teams want playoff spots, and with the second half of the season on the horizon, teams need to start picking up their games now. Jets and Hawks Lets Go!

Blackhawks

After a bit of a slow start which shockingly saw the Chicago Blackhawks sitting below the playoff line for the first few weeks of the season, everything has turned around in the Windy City. The Hawks have won 8 of their last ten and have earned 17 of a possible 20 points. This has kicked them all the way up to first place in the division, and only 3 points out of first in the West with two games in hand. What makes this team so strong is the lack of weakness. Corey Crawford tends the net among the best in the league, with Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook anchoring the Blue line, they have a stellar core, and the offense may be the best in the league. Patrick Kane leads the Hawks with 36 points, over a point a game, but the real wonder of his game is how easy everything looks. When the puck is on Kane’s stick it looks like it belongs there, and he seems to be able to do anything he wants with it. Combine him with Winnipeg’s own Jonathan Toews and the Hawks have one of the best one-two punches, if not the best. The Hawks are a huge measuring stick on every night, everyone gives the Hawks their best and Chicago is always ready and willing to accept the challenge.

Jets

The Jets suffered a very disappointing loss Sunday night against the Philadelphia Flyers. Winnipeg blew a two goal third period lead and then gave up the game winner just 9 seconds into overtime. A goal that seemed to be a comedy of errors, a faceoff won to know one, a bad turnover, and a goal that your number one goalie can not let in. It was something that Jets fans came to expect in past years but had looked to finally be past that recently. The Jets hope the loss to the Flyers was just a blimp on the radar, and look to move past it with this game in Chicago. The last time these teams matched up the Jets opened the scoring on the first shift and played in a shell the rest of the game to earn the 1-0 win. They will want to play the same basic style but need to be able to count on the offense for more. It is not common for Chicago to be shut out so the Jets need to be able to look at their offense and expect more than just a single goal. With the improved play from the botttom 3 lines, specifically Evander Kane and Mark Scheifele, who are playing their best hockey of the season, the Jets should be able to expect a few more number on the scoreboard.

Keys to the Game

Big Games: This match up between the Jets and Blackhawks will be the first of 3 straight divisional games for the Winnipeg Jets. Every game within your division is important and considering how tight the race is in the Western Conference every point is important, and if you can take 2 points away from someone right in front or behind you that makes the game doubly important. The Jets need to be good in this stretch and cannot afford to drop any games.

Big Buff: Dustin Byfuglien was a one man wrecking crew for Winnipeg Sunday night against Philadelphia. However, he also gave the puck away on the Flyers winning goal. The Jets need more from column A and less from B going forward. Byfuglien is an important piece for the Jets with one of the most unique skill sets in the league, he does have a big risk reward factor however. The Jets need Buff to play his game but if he makes mistakes the Hawks will capitalize.

Hutch: In their last meeting with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Jets rookie goaltender earned the first shutout of his young career. Making 33 saves in that game it  was an unbelievable performance for Michael Hutchinson, and when you are playing against this team it is the performance you need from your goalie. The Jets will once again lean on the young Canadian goalie and hope he can get the job done against the high powered Blackhawk offense.

Starting Goalies

Michael Hutchinson (7-2-2) GAA: 1.73 SV% .940
Corey Crawford (12-5-2) GAA: 1.87 SV% .927

Injuries

Enstrom, WPG, (LBI) out
Trouba, WPG, (Undisclosed) out
Bogosian, WPG, (LBI) out
Stuart, WPG, (LBI) out

Richards, CHI, (UBI) day-to-day
van Riemsdyk, CHI, (Leg) out

Last 10 (W-L-OTL)

Jets: 5-1-4
Blackhawks: 8-1-1

Prediction

Jets can’t keep up with high powered Hawks offense
Blackhawks 4 Jets 1

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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!