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At the Rink: Jets at Blackhawks

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- Brad Richards will miss a second straight game for the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, but it's mainly to capitalize on the upcoming break in the schedule.

Richards, who participated in Chicago's morning skate prior to the game against the Winnipeg Jets at United Center, missed his first game Sunday with an undisclosed upper-body injury. The Blackhawks put forward Kris Versteeg at Richards' spot centering the second line, bumped forward Patrick Sharp to left wing of that unit and cruised to a 4-0 home victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The reconfigured line helped generate the Blackhawks' first two goals against Toronto, including Versteeg's goal with less than a second left in the first period. They will line up that way again Tuesday, which gives Richards more time to recover with the Christmas break starting Wednesday.

"With three days off, rushing into a game tonight, why not just get a few more days and come back after the break and know I'm ready to go?'" said Richards who has 18 points (six goals) in 33 games. "That's kind of the plan. Maybe if we didn't have the three-day break it would be different, but why not take advantage of it?"

Richards and coach Joel Quenneville expect him to be ready to return after Christmas.

"You always want to play, but a long-term picture is not tonight's game," Richards said. "The second half's going to get busy when we get back from this break, so get refreshed. I fully plan on being ready to go."

Winnipeg returns to Chicago for the first time since escaping with a 1-0 victory at United Center on Nov. 2 in the first game between the teams. Former Blackhawks forward Michael Frolik scored the only goal of the game 20 seconds after the opening faceoff and goalie Michael Hutchinson earned his only NHL shutout by making 33 saves.

Frolik, one of three former Blackhawks players on the Winnipeg roster, said that goal was just another great memory of Chicago.

"Wouldn't mind the same script for tonight, yeah?" said Frolik, who helped the Blackhawks win the 2013 Stanley Cup. "It was definitely fun and I was happy. It was [my] first goal of the season too, and we won the game."

Hutchinson will make his second start of the season against Chicago. It will be the 13th straight game Jets coach Paul Maurice has alternated starts between Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec, and the strategy has worked.

"It's the same guy who came to us last year and got into games because his practice habits were so good," Maurice said of Hutchinson, who'd only played in two games prior to facing the Blackhawks earlier. "If he hadn't worked as hard as he had or looked as good in practice, we wouldn't have put him in the games. What he's done is that he's come here and just shortened the frequency between games off."

Chicago goalie Corey Crawford will start opposite Hutchinson in his second game back following a two-week absence for a lower-body injury.

Here are the projected lineups:


Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler

Mathieu Perreault - Mark Scheifele - Michael Frolik

Evander Kane - Adam Lowry - Matt Halischuk

Chris Thorburn - Jim Slater - Anthony Peluso

Ben Chiarot - Dustin Byfuglien

Jay Harrison - Grant Clitsome

Adam Pardy - Paul Postma

Michael Hutchinson

Ondrej Pavelec

Scratched: TJ Galiardi, Julien Brouillette

Injured: Jacob Trouba (lower body), Tobias Enstrom (lower body), Zach Bogosian (lower body), Mark Stuart (lower body)


Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Patrick Sharp - Kris Versteeg - Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell - Andrew Shaw - Daniel Carcillo

Joakim Nordstrom - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

David Rundblad - Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford

Antti Raanta

Scratched: Tim Erixon

Injured: Brad Richards (upper body)

Status report: Erixon will be a healthy scratch for the second straight game. He played three in a row following a trade that sent him to Chicago from the Columbus Blue Jackets. … Rozsival, who's 36, will play his 18th straight game. He's become the every-game defender on the third pairing since rookie Trevor van Riemsdyk was sidelined for 3-4 months with a fractured patella (knee cap). … Other than Hutchinson, the Jets are set to ice the same lineup they did Sunday in a 4-3 overtime loss against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Who's hot: Perreault has four goals in the past nine games and has at least a point in seven straight, including goals in each of the past two. … Kane has at least a point in the past six games, including three-point games in two of the past three.

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