Coming off an unexpectedly dramatic 6-4 victory over Columbus, the Winnipeg Jets (14-13-2) face their December menace, the Chicago Blackhawks (15-10-4). The Jets have gone 3-1-0 in 2015's final month, with the lone loss being to these Blackhawks on Sunday, December 6th. As with that game, tonight's tilt is the second half of a back-to-back being played at the United Center. At the very least, Chicago is also finishing up a back-to-back of their own, having fallen 5-1 last night to the Predators in Nashville.
Catch the game tonight, 7:30 PM Central Time on CSN-CH, TSN3 and TSN 1290.
Keys to the Game: Winnipeg Jets
When the well is dry, we know the worth of water: After posting 9 points in his first 12 games, Nikolaj Ehlers has just 3 in the last 17. On a related note, Ehlers averaged 3.58 shots per game over the former period, versus just 1.77 in the latter. It's undoubtedly a taller order for him to find his game while skating beside Thorburn and Burmistrov as opposed to Perreault and Scheifele, but it appears that's exactly what he'll need to do. While a stint over at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship might allow his game more opportunity, Winnipeg's depth or lack thereof will likely nix that possibility.
Withstand the 1st period: After being outshot 18-7 and scored on three times in under 10 minutes, Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville said that last night's 1st period against Nashville was "as ugly as I’ve ever seen us play." The Blackhawks will be returning home grumpy and likely chewed out; look for them to try and make amends, quickly. Considering both teams are on the second half of a back-to-back, if Winnipeg manages to hold the fort against a strong-starting Chicago, that expended energy might be rather deflating for the Blackhawks.
End the streak: Patrick Kane has now scored in 24 straight games, with the latest being Chicago's single tally last night:
Let's keep it from hitting the quarter mark. Release the Byfuglien.
Keys to the Game: Chicago Blackhawks
Crawford is as Crawford does: While it's been far from a perfect season, Corey Crawford just keeps chugging along. He's currently sporting a 13-7-2 record and .918 SV%, while only allowing a single goal in each of his last two games. Scott Darling took the full brunt of yesterday's 5-1 loss to Nashville, in part so that Crawford might rest. Expect him to bring his A game tonight.
Mark Stuart IV: Deliver Us from Evil: After an all right (though still subpar CF% Rel) effort against Colorado, and an excellent game versus Toronto, the Mark Stuart we all know and know has returned. Over his last three games, Stuart has posted a 5v5 CF% of 34.78, 44.83 and 32.14. While he's been far from alone in posting cringeworthy fancy stats (here's looking at you, Burmistrov), if I'm a Chicago Blackhawks squad at home, I know which pairing I have no qualms sending Patrick Kane out against. On a side note, Trouba's 5v5 CF% with Mark Stuart? 48.06%. Without? 55.83%.
Player to Boo Mercilessly
The choice is obvious. Boo Dennis Rasmussen.
Winnipeg returns the favour from earlier in December. Hutchinson allows one to Marian Hossa in the 1st period, and the Jets find themselves bending, but don't break. Stafford scores the game-winning goal.
Jets win 3-1. The Patrick Kane points streak ends.