The Chicago Blackhawks visit the Winnipeg Jets in their first Central Division game of the season Thursday night. Corey Crawford is making the start in net in the first game of the back-to-back. That could set up Scott Darling to suit up Friday night when the Hawks visit the Minnesota Wild.
Captain Jonathan Toews usually shines in his hometown and will look to have a big game fresh off his two game-winning goals in overtime last week. With the exception of recently called-up Tanner Kero, who centered the third line in practice on Wednesday and is likely to get the nod again, coach Joel Quenneville is expected to keep his lines and defensive pairings the same coming off of a 4-0 homestand.
The defense has begun to gel in the absence of Duncan Keith and has posted back-to-back shutouts with the help of Crawford. Scoring, however, has been at a premium. With only one even strength goal tallied in the last three games, the Hawks are last in the league in scoring with only 19 goals. The offense has been anemic, to say the least, and the Hawks are going to need to find ways to generate more shot attempts and put more pucks in the back of the net if they want to keep winning.
The Jets are sitting just behind the Hawks in the grueling Central Division and are looking to turn things around after a strong start turned into a bit of a skid. They are 2-2-1 on this homestand and would like to secure two points before they hit the road.
The Jets' highly-touted 19 year-old rookie, Nikolaj Ehlers, has already begun making his mark in the NHL and in Winnipeg, leading all rookies in SOG. Playing right wing on a line with center Mark Scheifele and left wing Mathieu Perreault, the trio has excelled in puck possession and will be a tough challenge for the Hawks. After securing a playoff berth last season, the Jets made some moves in the offseason, adding youth and speed in Nic Petan and Andrew Copp, along with Ehlers, in hopes of continuing to be competitive in hockey's toughest division.
The Jets are expected to start Ondrej Pavelec in goal along with the following lines:
Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Blake Wheeler
Mathieu Perreault-Mark Scheifele-Nikolaj Ehlers
Alexander Burmistrov-Adam Lowry-Drew Stafford
Chris Thorburn-Andrew Copp-Anthony Peluso
Points are at a premium in this division, even this early in the season, and both teams will be looking for two tonight.
How to watch:
When: 7 p.m. CT
Where: MTS Centre, Winnipeg
TV: CSN Chicago