The Chicago Blackhawks are certainly familiar with the Winnipeg Jets, given part of their 2010 (and 2013) Stanley Cup members are on the current squad. At the same time, this is a different Jets team than the Blackhawks saw earlier this season.
The Jets have gone through some changes since their last meeting in November, most notably at head coach; Claude Noel was fired, and Paul Maurice took over on Jan. 12. Since then, the Jets have been rejuvenated, winning five of their last six.
The Blackhawks got just one point on their latest road trip, a back-to-back in Detroit and Minnesota. Duncan Keith will be back tonight after missing Thursday’s game due to illness, and coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks could play seven defensemen tonight. He said no forward was ailing and that he’ll decide his full roster after warmups; asked if Bryan Bickell could be sitting, Quenneville said, “we’ll see.”
So while we wait to find out how’s in and who’s out, let’s check out the Five Things to watch for in tonight’s Jets-Blackhawks game.
1. Play like it’s your last game at home — because it is for a while. This is the Blackhawks’ final game at the United Center until early March, so they’ll want to put on a show for the home crowd. But don’t get too showy; the Blackhawks play their best when they keep it simple, and they’ll want to do that tonight.
2. Cool off the Jets. As we said earlier, Winnipeg is playing with renewed vigor. Whether it’s because they want to impress the new guy (Maurice) or they’re just feeling more comfortable, the Jets have been on a roll. The Blackhawks don’t want to be the latest team stymied by Winnipeg’s resurgence.
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3. Get some power going again. The Blackhawks’ power play is still third overall in the league but it’s 12th in the NHL at the United Center and hasn’t produced as much in recent games. The Blackhawks have gone 1-for-17 on the power play their last five games, the lone tally being Patrick Sharp against Detroit on Wednesday. They’d like to get going on that again, pronto.
4. Pick on the backup goaltender. Jets goalie Al Montoya was on a four-game winning streak in December. Well, things have changed. Montoya allowed 10 goals in his last two games including six against the Penguins on Jan. 5. He hasn’t played since. The Blackhawks will want to pounce on a goaltender whose confidence has to be a little shaken.
5. Who’s our pick to click tonight? It’s too easy to pick Jonathan Toews, isn’t it? The captain has 12 points in eight career games vs. the Jets. Too bad, we’re going for easy and picking him anyway.