Winnipeg has had Chicago’s number so far this season. The Jets defeated the Blackhawks 1-0 behind a 33-save performance by Michael Hutchinson on Nov. 2 and again in a 5-1 win on Dec. 23. The second game was the Blackhawks’ worst loss of the season. The Jets have won the last three games at the United Center.
The Blackhawks haven’t hidden that this is an important game to them.
“We'll give them credit,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “They played well the two times we played them, but we know we have to be a lot better than we've been in games against that team. The respect factor in this next one really has to be there. … It just goes to show that there's not easy nights, especially in our division, and I think they realize that too, and they're not making things easy on anybody.”
The Central Division has gotten tight. The Nashville Predators lead it with 62 points in 42 games. They’re followed by the Blackhawks with 58 points in 43 games, the St. Louis Blues with 58 points in 44 games and the Jets with 54 points in 45 games. If the playoffs started today, the Predators would play the Los Angeles Kings in the first round, the Blackhawks and Blues would match up and the Jets would face the Anaheim Ducks.
The Blackhawks should be rested after having four days off between games. They were coming off a stretch of five games in eight days prior to the break. They’re 6-4-0 in the last 10 games.
The Jets are on the second game of a back-to-back. They defeated the Dallas Stars 2-1 on the road Thursday. The Jets are 5-4-1 in the last 10 games.
Corey Crawford will start in net for the Blackhawks. He’s been back to form as of late and hasn’t allowed more than two goals in the last three games. He is 17-8-2 with a 2.15 goals-against average and .924 save percentage on the season.
The Blackhawks’ lines during their morning skate were Brandon Saad - Toews - Marian Hossa, Bryan Bickell - Brad Richards - Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp - Andrew Shaw - Teuvo Teravainen, Daniel Carcillo - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith. The defenseman pairings are expected to be Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook, Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson, David Rundblad - Michal Rozsival.
The Jets have three players with at least 15 goals. Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little each have 16 goals, and Mathieu Perreault has 15 goals. Perreault has six goals in the last five games. Ladd leads the Jets with 36 points.
Kane leads the Blackhawks with 20 goals and 47 points. He’s tied for sixth in the NHL in points.