The Blackhawks are one of four NHL teams remaining without a victory and they’ll look to correct that Saturday night when the Jets visit the United Center, as Chicago faces a Central Division opponent for the first time this season.
Winnipeg suffered through a tumultuous offseason. Dustin Byfuglien remains away from the team while contemplating retirement, its defensive depth was further weakened by a couple of summer trades and star forward Patrik Laine went to the media with his frustrations about the team. But that hasn’t affected the Jets through the first five games of the season, with Winnipeg winning three of them.
It’s many of the familiar faces doing the damage. Laine’s complains about not getting top-line time resulted in his promotion to the No. 1 spot alongside center Mark Scheifele and winger Blake Wheeler. The results have been impressive so far: Laine (3G, 7A), Scheifele (1G, 7A) and Wheeler (3G, 2A) are the three leading scorers in Winnipeg. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck has been solid in net and figures to get the nod this evening after having a night off following Thursday’s 5-2 win over the Wild.
Winnipeg’s defensive depth will remain a concern until it’s more proven, with its current configuration consisting of multiple names that will beg the question, “Who?” But the top line of Laine, Scheifele, Wheeler has already proven it can carry this team in the short term.
Meanwhile, a team with its own defensive concerns will suit up opposite Winnipeg. The Blackhawks defensive performance against the Sharks on Thursday did little to quell worries about Chicago’s prowess in its own end of the ice. But a boost could be available with the season debut of Calvin de Haan, who’ll take the place of Slater Koekkoek. In net, Robin Lehner will also make his season debut, boasting a career record of 4-0 against the Jets, with a 2.76 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. Coach Jeremy Colliton shuffled the lineup at Friday’s practice, resulting in Brendan Perlini moving to the starting lineup over Alexander Nylander, who’ll be a healthy scratch.
There’s only thing for the Blackhawks to do:
Tale of the tape
Blackhawks — Statistic — Jets
42.4% (31st) — Corsi For — 49.1% (18th)
46.9% (26th) — Faceoffs — 50% (14th)
3.5 (12th) — Goals per game — 3.6 (11th)
4.5 (28th) — Goals against per game — 3.4 (20th)
25% (14th) — Power play — 9.1% (25th)
50% (30th) — Penalty kill — 77.8% (16th)
DeBrincat — Toews — Caggiula
Shaw — Strome — Kane
Saad — Kampf — Kubalik
Smith — Carpenter — Perlini
Keith — Murphy
Maatta — Seabrook
De Haan — Gustafsson
Laine — Scheifele — Wheeler
Connor — Copp — Ehlers
Perreault — Roslovic — Appleton
Bourque — Lowry — Letestu
Morrissey — Pionk
Heinola — Poolman
Bitetto — Kulikov
How to watch
When: 6 p.m.
Where: United Center, Chicago
TV: NBC Sports Chicago
Live stream: NBC Sports app