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Preview: Jets at Blackhawks

Goalie Connor Hellebuyck to start for Winnipeg; center Marcus Kruger returns to Chicago lineup

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

JETS (22-25-4) AT BLACKHAWKS (30-15-5)

8:30 p.m. ET; CSN-CH, TSN3, NHL.TV 


Jets team scope 

Goalie Connor Hellebuyck will start for the Winnipeg Jets, his first appearance since he was pulled from a 4-3 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Jan. 13 after allowing three goals on six shots. Hellebuyck has allowed at least three goals in five of his past seven starts. "Just [looking for] some confidence in the net," coach Paul Maurice said. "He's going to go through a little stretch. It's been a little while. Hopefully we can let him see some easy pucks first and let him get into a good rhythm." Hellebuyck is 3-1-0 with a 1.01 goals-against average, .966 save percentage and one shutout in four starts against the Chicago Blackhawks. "It's not a concrete reason for a player to play, but he's played well and has a good feeling against this team," Maurice said. "[It's] as good as you could have going into a game against Chicago, but confidence is a big part of what these guys do." Defenseman Toby Enstrom didn't participate in the morning skate but will play.  


Blackhawks team scope 

Center Marcus Kruger will play after missing 11 games because of a hand injury. Kruger will center the third line between rookie left wing Nick Schmaltz and veteran right wing Marian Hossa. "It's a lot more fun being out there with the guys and preparing for a game than not," Kruger said. "Even though I've been missing games, I've been trying to work as hard as I can off the ice. But there's nothing like games, so we'll see how it is when I play." The Blackhawks are seeking their first win against the Jets this season after losing three games by a combined 9-2. "They definitely show up for these games," captain Jonathan Toews said. "It's something we can't really say we have [done], and at the end of the day, give them credit. It's not that we take anyone for granted, but we have to have that respect level to get to the next level against these guys and know they're going to come in here and [want to] keep that streak going, so we have to rectify that." Goalie Scott Darling will start over Corey Crawford, which coach Joel Quenneville said Wednesday was largely based on the recent play of each. Defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson will play his 600th NHL game.


Jets projected lineup

Andrew Copp -- Mark Scheifele -- Blake Wheeler

Nikolaj Ehlers -- Bryan Little -- Patrik Laine

Shawn Matthias -- Adam Lowry -- Joel Armia

Brandon Tanev -- Nicolas Petan -- Chris Thorburn

Josh Morrissey -- Dustin Byfuglien

Toby Enstrom -- Jacob Trouba

Mark Stuart -- Paul Postma

Connor Hellebuyck

Michael Hutchinson

Scratched: Ondrej Pavelec, Julian Melchiori, Brian Strait

Injured: Tyler Myers (lower body), Marko Dano (lower body), Ben Chiarot (upper body), Drew Stafford (lower body), Mathieu Perreault (upper body)


Blackhawks projected lineup

Ryan Hartman -- Jonathan Toews -- Richard Panik

Artemi Panarin -- Artem Anisimov -- Patrick Kane

Nick Schmaltz -- Marcus Kruger -- Marian Hossa

Andrew Desjardins -- Tanner Kero -- Vinnie Hinostroza

Duncan Keith -- Niklas Hjalmarsson

Michal Kempny -- Brent Seabrook

Brian Campbell -- Trevor van Riemsdyk

Scott Darling

Corey Crawford

Scratched: None 

Injured: Dennis Rasmussen (illness), Michal Rozsival (undisclosed)


Status report 

Trouba and Wheeler didn't participate in the Jets' morning skate but will play. … Rasmussen skated but is out while recovering from an illness. … Rozsival, who was hit with a shot in practice Wednesday, didn't skate and will not play. 


Who's hot

Little has five goals and two assists in a four-game point streak. … Schiefele has two goals and five assists in his past six games. … Ehlers has three goals and an assist in his past four games. … Toews has two goals and four assists in his past two games. … Hossa has two goals and five points in his past four games.

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