Winnipeg Jets at Chicago Blackhawks
The red-hot Winnipeg Jets will go for their eighth win in nine games when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night at the United Center.
Winnipeg (20-9-2) is riding high after a 5-4 overtime win against the Edmonton Oilers one night earlier. The Jets have scored 18 goals in their past three games and will look to continue their torrid production on offense.
That could spell a tough test for Chicago (10-18-5), which has given up six goals in each of its first two meetings against Winnipeg this season. The Jets beat the Blackhawks 6-5 on Nov. 29 and won again 6-3 on Tuesday night.
Skeptics could argue that the Jets have feasted against subpar competition so far this season.
However, Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice does not apologize for his team's first-half success.
"One of the things we've been good at, going back to last year and probably even prior to that, is we've beaten the teams below us at the right rate," Maurice said in comments that were published by the Winnipeg Sun. "We haven't played a lot of teams that are ahead of us, certainly recently, but we've done what we needed to do. There's lots of proving ground left for this hockey team."
Meanwhile, Chicago is trying to prove that it can bounce back from a woeful start to the season.
The Blackhawks will try to win back-to-back games for the first time since Oct. 23-25. Chicago is coming off of an impressive 6-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, which snapped an eight-game losing streak.
In 18 games under head coach Jeremy Colliton, the Blackhawks are 4-12-2. Colliton replaced longtime head coach and three-time Stanley Cup champion Joel Quenneville, who was fired Nov. 6 after a decade with the franchise.
The big win over the Penguins earlier this week finally allowed Blackhawks players to smile after the final horn and line up to congratulate goaltender Corey Crawford in front of his net for the first time in a long time.
"It's a relief," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said in comments published by the Chicago Sun-Times. "It's definitely just a good feeling for guys. We've got something to celebrate. We've got something to enjoy. We were reminded with an exciting reason to come to the rink (against the Jets) and come out with the same effort. It's something we've got to be aware of and build off of in the next one."
Winnipeg is led by star forward Patrik Laine, who has 22 goals in 31 games this season. The 20-year-old Finn already has scored 101 career goals in his first 185 contests.
Laine scored in the second period Thursday against the Oilers to snap a six-game scoreless drought. That marked his longest stretch without scoring this season.
On the opposite bench, the Blackhawks are led by forward Patrick Kane, who has 37 points (15 goals, 22 assists) in 32 games. Toews is next on the club with 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists) in 33 games.
Chicago is 6-6-3 at home this season. Winnipeg is 8-5-0 on the road.
Updated December 14, 2018