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Game #28 GDT: Winnipeg Jets at Chicago Blackhawks

Winnipeg looks to make it two-for-two on the road this weekend

Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The Winnipeg Jets (12-13-2) will look to defeat the Central division leading Chicago Blackhawks (16-7-3), in a match-up of who can win without their number one centre.

It was an incredibly low bar, but with yesterday’s 3-2 against the St. Louis Blues, this short weekend jaunt away from the MTS Centre is already off to a much better start than last time. Similar to Jacob Trouba stepping in just as Tyler Myers fell to injury, the return of veteran centre Bryan Little has helped cushion the loss of Mark Scheifele, who Jets head coach Paul Maurice considers day-to-day. While Winnipeg’s future captain recovers, the long-awaited combo of Little and Patrik Laine is one Jets fans can likely get used to:

Little has three points in three games since returning to the lineup, while Nikolaj Ehlers and Blake Wheeler are riding three and four game point streaks, respectively. After popping in four goals over the last three tilts, Laine currently shares the league lead with Sidney Crosby, with 16 goals and counting. His six game goalless drought before that is now but a distant memory.

Jonathan Toews remains out with an injury which Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville said "isn’t getting any better." His absence leaves the Blackhawks with what was a tried-and-true tradition in the pre-Artem Anisimov era: a bit of a 2C hole. Anisimov, Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane read just fine as a first line, but Ryan Hartman and Marian Hossa centred by Vince Hinostroza likely wasn't on many people’s off-season radars so far as potential second lines went. The 22-year-old Hinostroza has three points in 17 games, though that’s while averaging just 11:18 time on ice. As much as the Blackhawks may want to watch Laine, Winnipeg may want to do the same with Kane, who has five points in as many games while on pace for 79 on the season.

With Corey Crawford out 2-3 weeks following a successful appendectomy, Scott Darling will be tasked with holding the fort for Chicago. With a strong starter such as Crawford in the fold, Darling has seen limited action, and brings a 4-1-1 record and .907 Sv%. It’ll be interesting to see how heavily the Blackhawks lean on him during Crawford’s absence, versus a Rockford IceHogs recall such as Lars Johansson.

The Jets will counter with Connor Hellebuyck, after Michael Hutchinson got the call yesterday. Hellebuyck’s 9-9-0 record and .908 Sv% are a decent reflection of how the Jets’ season has gone thus far. According to Bruce Garrioch, it’s a middling performance which has led NHL executives to believe that Paul Maurice is on the hot seat (along with Buffalo’s Dan Bylsma).

Is Gerard Gallant really all that exciting, though?

When, Where & How

Sunday, Dec. 4, 6:00 p.m. CT, United Center
TV: Sportsnet, CSN-CH
Radio: TSN 1290

Winnipeg Jets Projected Lineup

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Nikolaj Ehlers Bryan Little Patrik Laine
Mathieu Perreault Blake Wheeler Drew Stafford
Andrew Copp Adam Lowry Marko Dano
Brandon Tanev Alexander Burmistrov Chris Thorburn
Left Defence
Right Defence
Josh Morrissey Dustin Byfuglien
Toby Enstrom Jacob Trouba
Ben Chiarot Paul Postma
Connor Hellebuyck
Michael Hutchinson

Chicago Blackhawks Projected Lineup

Left Wing Centre Right Wing
Artemi Panarin Artem Anisimov Patrick Kane
Ryan Hartman Vince Hinostroza Marian Hossa
Dennis Rasmussen Marcus Kruger Richard Panik
Tyler Motte Andrew Desjardins Jordin Tootoo
Left Defence
Right Defence
Duncan Keith Niklas Hjalmarsson
Brian Campbell Brent Seabrook
Gustav Forsling Michal Rozsival
Scott Darling
Lars Johansson