Preview: Blackhawks at Jets
Entering play Saturday, the postseason race in the Western Conference could not be any tighter with three points separating the teams holding down seventh and 12th place. The Chicago Blackhawks, sitting at the bottom of that pack, kick off a five-game road trip against teams above them in the standings, beginning with Sunday's visit to the Winnipeg Jets.
Although the Blackhawks are coming off back-to-back overtime losses to Minnesota and Boston, they have earned a point in eight of their last nine (6-1-2) and nine of 10 on the road (8-1-1). "I look at is as a fun situation to be in," coach Jeremy Colliton said of the upcoming road trip - all against Canadian opponents. "We're going on the road and all five of the games are huge. And as players and coaches, the team, we want to be in that situation, you want to be in those games." Chicago posted a pair of three-goal victories while earning points in all three matchups (2-0-1) this season versus the Jets, who opened a six-game homestand with a 5-2 win over Ottawa on Saturday behind Patrik Laine's eighth career hat trick. Winnipeg is 2-0-1 in its last three home games after going 1-7-1 in the previous nine such contests and will be seeking to record back-to-back victories at MTS Bell Place for the first time since early December.
TIME: 7 p.m. ET. TV: NBCS Chicago Plus, Sportsnet, TVA
ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (25-21-8): Patrick Kane has a goal and four assists in the three matchups versus Winnipeg and has piled up points away from home with 13 goals and 23 assists in 26 road games. Rookie Kirby Dach, the third overall pick in the 2019 draft, was elevated to the No. 2 line with Kane and Brandon Saad and is riding a five-game point streak. "You always want to be a difference-maker every time you step out on the ice," the 19-year-old Dach told reporters. "That's how you find a way to improve your game and get better each and every day."
ABOUT THE JETS (28-23-5): Laine struggled coming out of the Christmas break, managing only one goal in 11 games, but has come alive by scoring eight times in the last eight contests to boost his season total to 23 after converting three power-play tallies Saturday. Laine, who Thursday became the ninth player in league history to reach 130 goals before turning 22, has seven goals and 12 points in 17 meetings against Chicago. Kyle Connor collected four points Saturday to give him 11 goals and 12 assists in his last 19 games.
1. Blackhawks G Robin Lehner has turned aside 102 of 108 shots in three meetings versus Winnipeg this season.
2. The Jets were in a 1-for-25 rut on the power play prior to Saturday, including 0-for-5 in a 5-2 loss at Chicago on Jan. 19.
3. Blackhawks D Adam Boqvist (shoulder), who was hurt in Wednesday's game, practiced Saturday but his status for Sunday is uncertain.
PREDICTION: Blackhawks 3, Jets 2