WINNIPEG - Andrei Chibisov will be the sixth member of the Winnipeg Jets (29-25-5) to make his NHL debut this season when the Jets take on the Chicago Blackhawks (26-24-8) tonight.
The 26-year-old from Prokopyevsk, Russia has played 48 games with the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League this season, his first in North America, potting seven goals and 24 points.
"He's a big man, he moves well, he's a smooth skater. He's strong on the puck and he can shoot the puck. What we don't know is how that's going to translate from an American League and KHL background," said head coach Paul Maurice. "He needed to play in the American League for a stretch of time. Our game, the National League game, is so much different than the KHL game."
Video: PREGAME | Paul Maurice
Chibisov spent the past two seasons with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Kontinental Hockey league, scoring a total of 16 goals and 36 points in 81 games.
Now, after Moose head coach Pascal Vincent has worked with the 6'4, 227-pound forward, Maurice feels he's ready to make the jump.
"Pascal Vincent does just a brilliant job of getting these guys to understand the systems first so there isn't that lag when they come up here," said Maurice. "There aren't enough minutes there for it to be an issue, I don't run the fourth very hard right now. He's going to get enough minutes. We're going to get to know him a little bit better."
The Jets coach enlisted the help of Russian defenceman Dmitry Kulikov to give Chibisov his pre-game speech.
Outside of Chibisov being in the line-up, Maurice didn't want to reveal much more about his line-up tonight. He only offered the suggestion that there would be a "fair amount" of movement among his forward group tonight.
The focus will be on getting through the neutral zone with speed.
"You want speed at the line. Whether that's speed at the line and you still have the puck, or speed at the line and the puck is behind them, that's priority one," Maurice said. "The video we would have shown is 'what are the things that we need to do to allow that idea?' Then you need the decision, the early decision. 'Do I have a play to make or don't I?' But don't lose your speed when you're making the decision."
Video: PREGAME | Blake Wheeler
The Blackhawks will be playing the back half of back-to-backs tonight after an 8-4 victory over the Calgary Flames Saturday night.
But playing on consecutive nights has been good to Chicago this season. They're 8-2-1 in the second game of that scenario.
"I thought their game last night looked exactly like our first period in here against them, except there was 60 minutes of it," said Maurice. "Calgary had some push back, but these guys they play fast, they're making plays. They've got a real strong skill level through that top nine and even on their fourth a bit. They've got a back end that will jump in and move the puck.
"If you allow all those things to happen, this is a good hockey team."
It's the second time the Jets and Blackhawks have faced off in a one-week span. Winnipeg earned a 5-2 win last Sunday at Bell MTS Place, with Patrik Laine picking up a hat trick.
Blake Wheeler also scored his 17th of the season in that match-up, which evened the season series between the two clubs at two wins each.
Wheeler wants to see his team rebound after consecutive losses on home ice to the New York Rangers and the San Jose Sharks.
"There is a style of game that works for us, not even necessarily against Chicago, but no matter who we're playing," said Wheeler.
"Being deliberate in what we're doing coming up the ice. We don't have to make magic every time we come across the red line. Make simple plays, play fast, play heavy - from there, it gives us a chance. There's no guarantees in this game. But that gives us an opportunity to win a hockey game."
After Saturday's action, the Jets sit three points back of the final wildcard spot. Connor Hellebuyck is expected to get the start for the Jets with puck drop set for 7:30 pm CT.
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com
The Winnipeg Jets host the Chicago Blackhawks tonight for the second time during the Jets six-game homestand...Winnipeg fell to 2-2-0 on the homestand after a 3-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Friday night...The Jets finish the homestand on Tuesday against the Los Angeles Kings.
Feb. 14 vs. SJS - 3-2 L
Jets Scorers: Connor (29), Wheeler (18)
Sharks Scorers: Sorensen (6), Karlsson (4), Meier (19)
Jets Goaltender: Connor Hellebuyck (32 sv, 3 ga)
Sharks Goaltender: Aaron Dell (30 sv, 2 ga)
Jets PP: 1-for-4
Jets PK: 3-for-3
Recap: The Jets held a 2-1 lead going into the third period, but lost 3-2 to the San Jose Sharks Friday night...Blake Wheeler paced the Jets with a goal and an assist...Patrik Laine and Mark Scheifele each had a team leading seven shots.
Three Stars: 1. Meier 2. Sorensen 3. Wheeler
READ THE GAME NOTES
Winnipeg is 14-14-3 at home this season and are in a stretch of nine of 10 games at Bell MTS Place...The Jets are in the midst of a six-game homestand, which is their longest homestand of the season at Bell MTS Place...The Jets are 3-2-1 in their past six home games...Kyle Connor leads the Jets in scoring at home with 30 points (16G, 14A) in 31 games.
The Jets play the Chicago Blackhawks tomorrow for the second time during their homestand...The Blackhawks are the only Central Division team the Jets play during the homestand...The pair of games against Chicago are Winnipeg's only games against a Central Division rival in a span of 19 games...The Jets play Central Division teams in five of their last eight games to end the regular season...Winnipeg is 10-6-4 against their divisional counterparts this season and have posted a winning record in games within the division in each of the past three seasons.
The Jets loss on Friday was the first time this season in 20 games that they lost when leading after the second period...The Jets held a 2-1 lead after the second period...Winnipeg is 19-1-0 this season when leading after the second period.
KC's Top 40
Kyle Connor scored on Friday to reach a team leading 60 points (29G, 31A) this season...It's the second consecutive season he's reached 60 points...In his 40 games since Nov. 14/20, Connor is ninth in the NHL with 47 points (23G, 24A)...His 18.4% shooting percentage in that span is tied for first among the top 15 scorers in the league...Connor has a point in 28 of the 40 games, including 13 multi-point games and five games with three points or more.
Blake Wheeler had a goal and an assist on Friday to reach 39 points (13G, 26A) in his past 36 games...He hasn't gone consecutive games without a point since Nov. 19-21/19...Friday was also his 16th multi-point game of the season, which ties him with Kyle Connor and Mark Scheifele for the team lead...Wheeler holds the franchise record with 159 multi-point games.
Multiple Shots Fired
While the Jets only had eight players register a shot on goal on Friday, seven of those players had multiple shots...Mark Scheifele paced the Jets with seven shots, while Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor had six shots each, leaving Winnipeg's top line with 19 of the team's 31 shots in the game...It's the second time this season the Jets have had three players have six shots or more in a game (Dec. 5 at DAL - 3-2 OTL).
How the Jets Were Built
Drafted (14) - Appleton, Connor, Copp, Ehlers, Harkins, Hellebuyck, Laine, Little, Lowry, Morrissey, Niku, Poolman, Scheifele, Roslovic
Trade (3) - Beaulieu, Pionk, Wheeler
Free Agency (8) - Bitetto, Bourque, Brossoit, Chibisov, Kulikov, Letestu, Perreault, Shaw
Waivers (3) - Dahlstrom, Sbisa, Shore