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Blackhawks want to distance themselves from Jets

by Patrick Williams

BLACKHAWKS (31-18-2) at JETS (26-18-9)


WINNIPEG -- The Chicago Blackhawks have an opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the Winnipeg Jets when they visit MTS Centre on Friday.

The Blackhawks are third in the Central Division and have a three-point lead on Winnipeg. Chicago also has two games in hand on the Jets, who have lost five games in a row and will be without left wing Evander Kane for the rest of the season because of a shoulder injury.

However, the Blackhawks have lost three of their past four games and have been shut out in each of their past two. Chicago has lost the first three games between the teams this season, with Winnipeg outscoring the Blackhawks 10-3.

After playing Winnipeg, the Blackhawks visit the St. Louis Blues on Sunday to finish a seven-game road trip, their longest of the season. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews expects a different performance from his teammates against Winnipeg.

"We're looking for a rebound and to be a lot better than we were in the [past] game," Toews said of the Blackhawks, who were shut out 3-0 by the Minnesota Wild this past Tuesday.

With Kane out and a five-game losing streak that needs to end, Toews sees Winnipeg as a dangerous opponent.

"I don't think it seems to matter," Toews said of facing struggling teams. "We've played a lot of teams going through losing streaks, but it always seemed like they found a way to get the intensity up and play their best game against us, so we can't ever expect, especially against the Jets with the success they've had against us this [season], to take anything for granted, regardless of what is going on with the story over there [in the Winnipeg dressing room]."

Center Brad Richards did not participate in the morning skate, but coach Joel Quenneville said Richards will play Friday.

The Blackhawks are expected to have left wing Daniel Carcillo back in the lineup. Carcillo has not played since Jan. 16 when he cross-checked Winnipeg's Mathieu Perreault. The NHL suspended Carcillo for six games. Carcillo was eligible to return against Minnesota, but did not dress. Carcillo is expected to replace Joakim Norstrom in the lineup.

"[Carcillo] can play, has some energy," Quenneville said. "I'm not happy with the past couple of games, so we're looking to change."

With Kane out, defenseman Dustin Byfuglien will again dress as a right wing for the Jets on a line with center Mark Scheifele and Perreault on left wing. Chris Thorburn will take Kane's place as the third-line left wing with center Adam Lowry and right wing Michael Frolik.

Winnipeg recalled forward Patrice Cormier from St. John's of the American Hockey League on Thursday to replace Kane on the roster. Cormier has not dressed for a game with Winnipeg this season.

A win against Chicago would continue the Jets' success against the Blackhawks this season.

"I think we've played a quick game against [Chicago] all [season]," Jets captain Andrew Ladd said. "Going into the game, you know they're fast and have a lot of skill, and you take away their time and space. We'll need to see more of that tonight and contain their big guns."

Playing Chicago also will offer the Jets a break from their losing streak and Kane's injury.

"We're looking forward to it," Jets coach Paul Maurice said.

Maurice also found time for humor.

"The other way to look at it is I'm really, really smart," Maurice said jokingly. "We've just dropped five hockey games, and I have not talked about it."

Winnipeg will start goaltender Michael Hutchinson, who is 3-0-0 against Chicago with a 1.00 goals-against average and a .971 save percentage this season. The Blackhawks will counter with Corey Crawford.

Here are the projected lineups:


Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Patrick Sharp - Brad Richards - Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell - Andrew Shaw - Teuvo Teravainen

Daniel Carcillo - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith

Duncan Keith - David Rundblad

Niklas Hjalmarsson - Brent Seabrook

Michal Rozsival - Johnny Oduya

Corey Crawford

Antti Raanta

Scratched: Tim Erixon, Joakim Nordstrom

Injured: Kris Versteeg (hand), Trevor van Riemsdyk (knee)


Andrew Ladd - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler

Mathieu Perreault - Mark Scheifele - Dustin Byfuglien

Chris Thorburn - Adam Lowry - Michael Frolik

TJ Galiardi - Jim Slater - Anthony Peluso

Toby Enstrom - Zach Bogosian

Mark Stuart - Jacob Trouba

Ben Chiarot - Adam Pardy

Michael Hutchinson

Ondrej Pavelec

Scratched: Jay Harrison, Patrice Cormier, Paul Postma

Injured: Grant Clitsome (back), Matt Halischuk (lower body), Evander Kane (shoulder)

Status report: Versteeg has not played since Jan. 1, but he skated in place of Richards at the morning skate.

Who's hot: The Jets' top line has heated up recently. Wheeler (two goals, two assists) and Ladd (one goal, four assists) each have three-game point streaks.

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