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Preview: Jets-Blackhawks

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Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

With a wee bit of separation (finally) in the hunt for the Western Conference's final playoff spots, the Winnipeg Jets take on the Chicago Blackhawks this evening in Winnipeg.  The Jets are coming off of a big 5-2 win against the Montreal Canadiens in a game that the Canadiens dominated everywhere but the scoreboard.  A win would move the Jets four points up on the LA Kings in the wild care race and even a point up on the Canucks.

Keys to the Game

Winnipeg Jets

Ondrej Pavelec.  The Jets have been on fire lately, 7-3-0 in their last 10 games.  While the team has (mostly) played well, a huge part of their recent success has been because of Ondrej Pavelec, who currently owns a sparkling .963 save percentage in eight March appearances.  I mean...just look at how clean that save percentage is.  You could eat off of it!

Contain the big guns.  Ever since the Blackhawks lost Patrick Kane to injury, they've been a bit of a one line team.  Sharp-Toews-Hossa, or Versteeg-Toews-Hossa (the line combination expected tonight) have put up a lot of points, but after that the Blackhawks are missing the offensive touch that used to make them scary.  Bickell-Vermette-Teravainen is all well and good, but is anybody actually scared of the Blackhawks' third line anymore?  I'm not.  And Saad-Richards-Sharp is a solid but unspectacular second line that the Jets might actually have beat.  Contain the top line, and the Jets will have a strong chance to win this one.

Finally, there's the possibility of having this guy back in the lineup

Perreault has reportedly received medical clearance. His return is now in the coaches' hands.

Chicago Blackhawks

Stop for stop.  With the way that Ondrej Pavelec has played lately, this game may very well come down to which team's goaltender plays better.  If Corey Crawford can go stop for stop with Ondrej Pavelec, his time will be in a position to win.  But if Crawford gets outplayed by Pavelec, uh oh.

Secondary scoring. The Blackhawks have missed it ever since Patrick Kane got hurt.  Brad Richards has just three points since February.  Brandon Saad has five.  Bryan Bickell has one.  The Blackhawks can't rely on Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa to score all of the goals.  The depth scorers will need to help out.

Player to boo mercilessly

Corey Crawford.  Abracadabra, floodgates!

Prediction

4-3.  The Jets play far and away better than their outing against Montreal, Pavelec's play slips, but Corey Crawford is nothing special either.