The Jets have won five of their last six games, including an overtime win against the Toronto Maple Leafs less than 24 hours prior to the scheduled puck drop in Chicago. The Blackhawks have had a slow start to the New Year, winning only four of their last 10 games but losing an extra four past regulation time. Despite that, the Blackhawks have been the better team historically in the infancy of this Central Division rivalry, with a 4-0 record against the Jets all-time, and 3-o record this season. Winnipeg will try to avenge their last meeting, in which Blackhawks’ captain Jonathan Toews recorded a four-point night in his hometown en route to a 6-3 Blackhawks victory.
Jets’ head coach Paul Maurice will start back-up Al Montoya for the first time since taking over two weeks ago, after Ondrej Pavelec started on Saturday against the Leafs. Montoya, who started in Chicago on November 6th, making 24 saves, hasn’t played since January 5th, and has a .921% save percentage this season. At the other end, Corey Crawford will be between the pipes, starting his 35th game of the season. Crawford has a .910% save percentage and 2.49 GAA this year.
Norris Trophy front-runner Duncan Keith is expected to return to Chicago’s lineup, after missing their last game against the Minnesota Wild with the flu, giving the ‘Hawks a completely healthy roster. The Jets’ are also completely healthy, minus Matt Halischuk (broken arm), Grant Clitsome (back), Jim Slater (hernia), and Paul Postma (blood clot), who are all on Injured Reserve.
The Jets will have to bring a balanced offensive attack to the table on Sunday, but think defense first. Chicago forward Patrick Kane (who is playing in his 500th NHL game) has 13 points in eight career games vs Winnipeg/Atlanta, and is not on the Blackhawks’ first line. Effective, mobile defense will be necessary, and the Jets’ forwards will have to be firing on all cylinders to take care of a speedy Chicago back-check.
Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien will be right at home at the United Center on Sunday, although it will be at the other end of the ice. The former Blackhawk won a Stanley Cup (along with Jets’ captain Andrew Ladd) in 2010, and will be playing as a forward for the first time back in Chicago, after spending an entire playoff run inside the blue paint, wearing a red sweater.
The ‘Hawks have one of the best home records in the NHL, at 18-3-7, while the Jets are 11-14-1 on the road this year. Chicago is 9-7-3 within the Central Division this season, while the Jets have a 5-11-3 record.
You can see the game on TSN Jets, or listen live on TSN 1290 radio. Non-regional viewers can catch the game on CSN-Chicago. Puck drop is scheduled for 6 PM Central Time.
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