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Blackhawks look to rebound vs. improved Jets

by John Kreiser

JETS (24-24-5) at BLACKHAWKS (32-9-12)


Last 10: Winnipeg 5-5-0; Chicago 4-2-4

Season series: The Chicago Blackhawks will go for a four-game sweep of the Winnipeg Jets. They won three times in a 20-day span in November by a combined 15-5. Chicago has won the past seven games between the franchises.

Big story: It's been two weeks since the Jets changed coaches, but they look like a completely different team. A 5-4 overtime victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday was Winnipeg's fifth in six games since the coaching change, but the Jets are still eight points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks have been off since a 2-1 road loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, and they have seen their lead over the St. Louis Blues shrink to two points.

Team Scope:

Jets: It came against an Eastern Conference opponent, so allowing Toronto to rally from a 4-1 deficit to earn a point in the overtime victory Saturday didn't cost the Jets anything in the standings. Dustin Byfuglien's goal was 2:16 left in OT gave the Jets a 5-1-0 record since the coach change.

Byfuglien said there was no panic despite the lost lead.

"I think that's been our big thing around here: Sticking with the game plan and not getting away from it," he said. "You stick with it, you're bound to get your shots and opportunities to score. It's just a matter of doing it when you get the chances."

Blackhawks: Road losses to the Detroit Red Wings (in a shootout) and the Wild, combined with three straight wins by the Blues, have melted away the Blackhawks' once-safe lead in the Central Division. But coach Joel Quenneville kept things light at practice, holding a 3-on-3 tournament.

Defenseman Brent Seabrook said the offbeat approach might be just what the team needs as it prepares for its final game in Chicago until March 1.

"He's done things like this in the past, and it's been great," Seabrook told the media. "I'm not going to speak for Joel, but maybe the boys needed a fun day like this -- something to get the emotion and excitement back."

Corey Crawford will start in goal after Antti Raanta played in Minnesota.

Who's hot: Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler each had a goal and an assist against Toronto, giving them seven points apiece in the Jets' past five games. … Patrick Kane scored the Blackhawks' lone goal against the Wild and has three points in two games.

Injury report: The Jets are without forwards Jim Slater (hernia),Matt Halischuk (forearm) andGrant Clitsome (back) and defenseman Paul Postma (blood clot). … The Blackhawks are healthy except for backup goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin (season-ending shoulder surgery). Quenneville said defenseman Duncan Keith, who missed the game in Minnesota due to illness, is expected to play.

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