Jonathan Toews is home. Michael Frolik faces his former team for the first time. Oh, and the Blackhawks and Jets are in the same division now, too.
There is no shortage of storylines as Chicago goes to Winnipeg for the first time since the city got an NHL franchise again. So before today’s matinee in Manitoba, here are Five Things to watch for in the game:
1. Toews’ homecoming reaction.
We’re not talking about whether he lifts a stick to salute the crowd or takes an I’m-back lap. We’re talking about Toews’ game in front of the hometown fans. Is he overwhelmed by the reception or does he play more like the guy who scored a hat trick the other night against the Ottawa Senators. Given the captain’s devotion to the game and his (usually) unbreakable focus, we’ll go with the latter.
2. Motivated Jets.
The Jets have several former Blackhawks on the team, so it’s never surprising they want to beat their old teammates. But there’s more motivation here now: the Jets are in the Western Conference where they belong, they’re new division foes and they’d love to upend the Cup champs in their first regular-season visit to Winnipeg since the Jets were reborn there. Don’t be surprised if the Jets, at the very least, get out to a hot start.
3. Special-teams time.
The Blackhawks’ power play has scored a goal in six consecutive games (I know – what are we supposed to complain about now?) The Jets have the ninth-ranked penalty kill in the league (Frolik factor?), so the Blackhawks’ power-play streak could end today. Meanwhile, the Blackawks’ penalty kill seems to be solidifying. They could do themselves a favor by nixing any Jets power play, which is 25th in the NHL. More to the point for the Blackhawks: just stay out of the box.
4. Who’s our pick to click today?
It’d be too easy to say Toews here, although we expect a good game from him. Let’s go with Andrew Shaw. His net presence could be key today.
5. Most Likely to get Razzed by Jets Fans:
Again, it’ll be stunning if Toews gets booed and nagged by the Winnipeg crowd. Patrick Kane, on the other hand, could hear it. Even Toews could get a chuckle out of that. “If it’s Kaner, it’ll be funny,” he said.