CHICAGO, Illinois -- For the second time in five days, the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks will face off at United Center, and while the day on the calendar may be different, a number of storylines remain the same.
Just like the previous meeting, a 3-1 Jets loss on Dec. 6, Winnipeg comes into Illinois fresh off a win at MTS Centre. Last night’s 6-4 win over Columbus pushed the Jets record in the front half of back-to-back games to 6-1-0 this season.
Powered by Mathieu Perreault’s eventual game-winner, and four-point night overall, the line of Perreault, Mark Scheifele, and Drew Stafford combined for nine points in the win.
“What they do well is they’ve got enough skill that they can stay fairly close together. When they don’t lose their speed doing that, they’re a really effective line,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “Because they have such good hand skills, they can make short plays in tight areas. When they’re skating, when they keep their speed to do that, they’re really effective.”
Scheifele had a goal of his own in the win over the Blue Jackets, and his +3 rating is one indication that the offense his line is producing comes from good defence.
“We’re bringing the puck out nice, we’re not giving up a whole lot, and we’re creating chances from the D zone,” said Scheifele. “Getting some odd man rushes, getting the puck in their zone, and going from there.”
The defensive part of the Jets’ game will be tested tonight, as another similar storyline from Sunday’s game remains in tact: Patrick Kane’s point streak. Kane set a Chicago Blackhawks franchise record when he extended his streak to 22 games that night, and after his goal in a 5-1 loss to Nashville last night, the streak sits currently sits at 24.
But it’s not only Kane, the NHL’s leader in points with 44, the Jets will need to keep an eye on. As a team, Chicago sits in the NHL’s top 10 in goals scored this season.
“They have a lot of skill. They have guys that can score and guys that can make plays,” said Scheifele. “We just have to be patient. If they’re going to get some (offensive) zone time, be patient with it, and pounce when we get the chance.”
Maurice hasn’t named who he will start in goal tonight. With his 25-save effort last night, Connor Hellebuyck pushed his record to 4-0-0 to start his NHL career, while Michael Hutchinson suffered his first career loss at United Center on Sunday, but still holds a sparkling 4-1-1 record against the Blackhawks.
As far as the proximity in terms of games goes, Maurice says it made for a quicker video session this morning.
“It’s still fresh in our minds. We see them enough in our division, so that’s good. They played last night which is a nice change for us on these back-to-backs,” said Maurice. “They’re going to be grumpy because of the result, and we’re going to need to be a little better than we were last week.”
Puck drop at United Center is 7:30 pm CT.
LOWRY LIGHTS THE LAMP
He described it as a “big relief.”
When Adam Lowry redirected a Dustin Byfuglien point shot past Curtis McElhinney last night, the second-year forward lit the lamp for the first time this season.
Coach Maurice described the goal as “huge” for Lowry, calling him a “heart and soul” type of player.
“I’m not sure if you pro rate his games statistically, he’s already going to have a better year - maybe not in goals, but in points,” Maurice said. “I think in the last five games, Adam’s game, the quickness is coming back. He’s getting some confidence back in his game.
“It’s the second or third game in a row that he won a huge face off for us late in the game, and he hadn’t taken a lot of face offs during the game. So he’s coming along just fine.”
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com