Season Series: This is the only meeting of the season for Winnipeg and Chicago. The Blackhawks won their only matchup with the then-Atlanta Thrashers last season, 5-4, in a shootout at Philips Arena.
Big Story: The rechristened Jets play their first road game in 15 years as they visit the Blackhawks.
Jets: Sunday was a special night for the fans and players in Winnipeg as the Jets returned in the form of the franchise formerly known as the Atlanta Thrashers. But as the crowd at the MTS Centre found, passion, excitement and emotion, don't necessarily equal wins and sure enough the pesky Montreal Canadiens spoiled the party with a 5-1 win. As the reborn franchise goes after its first win, things won't get much easier. Winnipeg plays 12 of its next 16 games outside of Manitoba and the very first of those stops could be the most challenging one on the trip.
The Winnipeg/Atlanta franchise has struggled against the Hawks in recent years, winning just one of five meetings since the work stoppage that cancelled the 2004-05 season. If the Jets can search for anything encouraging however, it's that three of those four losses came via the shootout and they've averaged more than three goals per game in that span. If they can lock down the Hawks on defense, the new era in Winnipeg could spawn a new one in Chicago.
Blackhawks: After the Hawks snuck into the playoffs on the season's final night last year, the team they left in the lurch, Dallas, had an opportunity for a small measure of revenge in both teams' season opener, and handed Chicago a 2-1 loss last Friday. The Blackhawks returned the favor in a big way 24 hours later by beating up the Stars, 5-2, on the second half of a back-to-back at the United Center.
Playing games on back-to-back nights and then having a four-day layoff to start the 2011-12 season seems like a staccato rhythm more fit for Chicago's House of Blues than it's hockey team however. Given the choppy nature of the Hawks' early season schedule could make it very difficult for the team to find its rhythm and rust may still be coming off the wheels. Given the visit by the upstart Jets Thursday and another visit by the defending-champion Bruins on Saturday, it would behoove Chicago to shed that rust quickly.
Who's Hot: Winnipeggers are likely expecting a big season out of Nik Antropov, and the Kazakhstani delivered in their opener scoring the first goal of the new Jets. ... Dave Bolland is often noted for his strong checking, but the center is coming off a two-goal performance against Dallas.
Injury Report: Despite a lower-body injury, Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford is expected to be ready for Thursday. The most significant absentee for the Jets is Eric Fehr, who is out indefinitely since undergoing surgery on his right shoulder in late September.
Stat Pack: Even the previous franchises to sport the Jets' moniker have struggled in Chicago. While the original Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix in 1996, the last time a team with that name won in Chicago was April 21, 1995 -- more than 16 years ago.
Puck Drop: Chicago is getting a boost Thursday as Dan Carcillo will return from a two-game suspension that could cause Winnipeg grief at the behest of the gritty forward. Should the Jets keep their heads level when Carcillo attempts to get under the skin of Evander Kane and company, an out of sync Hawks team could give the Jets an inside track to their first win as a new franchise.