WINNIPEG, Manitoba - Tanner Kero will make his NHL debut and Corey Crawford will start as the Blackhawks face the Winnipeg Jets at the MTS Centre tonight.
The Blackhawks have been finding success despite losing Duncan Keith. They’ve won four in a row and enter Thursday night’s game fifth overall in the Western Conference (12 points). It’s been an interesting early schedule for the Blackhawks, who are finally playing in their first Central Division matchup this evening.
“We mentioned that this morning, so it was fresh,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It’s amazing. Here we are, you look at our division and look at how competitive [it is] and what’s it going to take at the end to make it. It could be a whole new number. It’s a meaningful game. We have to play well on the road and we know how good this team is and how challenging it’ll be in this building as well. It’ll make for a great divisional race from start to finish, and some great teams in our division. This is one of them.”
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Winnipeg is coming off a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings. Michael Hutchinson is expected to get the start tonight. Against the Blackhawks, Hutchinson is 3-0-1 with a 1.23 goals-against average and .961 save percentage.
The Jets will be seeing some different faces in this Blackhawks roster but, despite the turnover, the Jets aren’t surprised the Blackhawks are still finding early season success.
“I don’t think the team or structure’s changed a bit. So I don’t know if the look has necessarily changed at all,” Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said. “The one thing they’ve been able to do… they had a stretch of games last year when they had a difficult time scoring with their lineup fine, everybody in it, and found a way to win. They played that game that served them well in the playoffs, so when you [lose players], they don’t have to change their identity or who they are.”
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The Blackhawks have won their last two games by identical 1-0 overtime decisions. They don’t want to change much in their game, especially on the defensive side. But they are certainly looking for more offense.
“I think we need to just start burying our chances,” Andrew Shaw said. “We’ve had a lot of opportunities. You can say we’ve run into some pretty good goalies but then again, we’ve had some opportunities we’ve missed and ones we should bury. I think if we just keep sticking to the game plan, eventually they’ll start going in for us.”