By Jeff Hamilton
The Blackhawks visit the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre Saturday afternoon. The Hawks will look to extend their two-game winning streak against a Winnipeg team coming off a four-game road trip where they struggled to find points.
Here are some keys for Chicago (8-2-3) as they get set to jostle with the Jets:
Keep Jonny hot:
Jonathan Toews is coming off his biggest game of the year where the captain scored three goals and added an assist, en route to a 6-5 win over the Ottawa Senators.
Toews will look to stay hot in a game against his hometown team. It’s this first regular season game in Winnipeg.
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“He’s definitely excited about [coming to Winnipeg],” Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s coming off a special game coming in here today and I’m sure it will be a very proud moment for him.
Toews has had some good success against the Jets/Thrashers throughout his time in the NHL. In five career games he’s racked up seven points (four goals, three assists) and is a plus-2.
A good start:
With three days since that Ottawa game, Quenneville said it’s imperative to get off to a good start, especially against a relatively unknown opponent like the Jets.
“We haven’t seen these guys in a long time,” Quenneville said. “They play a fast game. They play a simple game, kind of comparable to our style of game and we want to make sure that we’re respectful for the way they have to play but getting off to a big start is what we’re looking for and keep it simple.
“We always accentuate our starts no matter the opponent on whatever night. The difference between winning and losing can be the first 10 minutes of the game.”
Improving the PK:
Chicago enters the game ranked dead last on the penalty kill with a 72.5 percent efficiency rate, something Quenneville knows needs improvement.
“It’s one area we’re trying to clean up,” he said. “I think we’ve been improving the kill but the stats don’t reflect it. We think we’re trending in the right direction and we want to improve it.”
The Hawks face a favorable matchup in Winnipeg. The Jets are ranked 26th on the power play, converting just six goals on 54 trips with the man advantage.
Friends turned rivals:
The Blackhawks will say hello to three former teammates and friends in today’s game. Jets captain Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien both won a Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010, and forward Michael Frolik was part of last season’s championship team.
“I’m sure they’re excited about playing us today,” said Quenneville. “I’m sure they’re going to have their guys ready and they’re going to be ready themselves. It makes for a good contest here and now that they’re in our division I’m sure that rivalry will start today and get better each and every game.
“I think over time we expect this rivalry to become one of the key ones with Chicago and having three former Blackhawks could certainly help with that appetite going in to games. Getting this first game under us, at some time I think it will start and get more intense each and every game.”