Another potential piece of the Chicago Blackhawks future will get his first NHL action Thursday night as Dylan Sikura makes his professional debut against the Winnipeg Jets at the United Center.
Sikura, 22, was signed to an entry-level contract Sunday after his Northeastern Huskies were eliminated from the NCAA tournament on Saturday. The 5-foot-11, 158-pound Sikura will wear No. 95 on his back and is expected to debut on a line with Victor Ejdsell at center and Alex DeBrincat on the opposite wing. It’s strange to say that DeBrincat is by far the most experienced professional player on a line, but that’s the case here.
Elsewhere, the top line is loaded up with Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane at the wings for center Nick Schmaltz. Anton Forbserg is expected to start in net, while two other Chicago rookies could get their debuts Friday night in Colorado: defenseman Blake Hillman and goaltender Collin Delia. While those players are at the very beginning of their careers, Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook is well into his, suiting up for his 1,000th career game tonight.
Other than those young prospects, there aren’t too many exciting storylines for the Blackhawks these days, and that’s largely the case for the visiting Jets, although for much different reasons. Winnipeg is virtually locked in to the No. 2 spot in the Central Division, trailing the Nashville Predators by five points with only six games remaining while maintaining an even more insurmountable 10-point lead on the Minnesota Wild.
The Jets are flying high (GET IT?), too, riding a six-game win streak that began with a 6-2 thumping of these Blackhawks on March 15. Winnipeg has won its past four games in overtime, including the last two in shootouts, proving it can win just about anyway that’s required of them. Even the minor heart attack caused by an apparent injury to Patrik Laine proved to be a blip on the radar, as he didn’t miss a game and had the shootout winner against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night in Winnipeg’s most recent triumph. Laine is still three weeks away from his 20th birthday and has 43 goals, within striking distance of Alex Ovechkin’s 45 for the Maurice Richard trophy annually awarded to the league’s top scorer. He’s proven to be everything Winnipeg hoped for when he was selected No. 2 overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, as long as the creature growing on his neck doesn’t swallow him hole at some point.
It’s another matchup against a streaking team with a playoff future for the Hawks. On Monday night, that produced a rather entertaining game. We’ll find out if they can match that effort against the Jets on Thursday night.
|F1||Brandon Saad - Nick Schmaltz - Patrick Kane|
|F2||Tomas Jurco - Artem Anisimov - Andreas Martinsen|
|F3||Alex DeBrincat - Victor Ejdsell - Dylan Sikura|
|F4||Patrick Sharp - David Kampf - Vinnie Hinostroza|
|D1||Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook|
|D2||Erik Gustafsson - Connor Murphy|
|D3||Blake Hillman - Jordan Oesterle|
|F1||Kyle Connor - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler|
|F2||Nikolaj Ehlers - Paul Stastny - Patrik Laine|
|F3||Mathieu Perreault - Andrew Copp - Bryan Little|
|F4||Brandon Tanev - Adam Lowry - Joel Armia|
|D1||Josh Morrissey - Tyler Myers|
|D2||Joe Morrow - Dustin Byfuglien|
|D3||Ben Chiarot - Tucker Poolman|
*Lines are subject to change.
How to watch Jets at Blackhawks
Start time: 7:30 p.m. CT
Location: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBC Sports Chicago