The two players will again try to help their team get its first victory Thursday night, when they play at the United Center for the first time since helping the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup.
Despite losing 5-1 to Montreal on Sunday, the Jets received a standing ovation from a sellout crowd at their new home, the MTS Centre - a moment 15 years in the making. The original Jets moved to Phoenix for the 1996-97 season before Winnipeg got a second chance when the Atlanta Thrashers relocated there for this season.
All but four players who dressed Sunday were member of the Thrashers in 2010-11, including Ladd and Byfuglien. The two were acquired in separate trades with the Blackhawks before last season and were the top scorers for a team that finished 12th in the Eastern Conference.
“Right away, I was kind of disappointed. The more I look ahead, it was obviously a good thing,” Byfuglien said of leaving Chicago. “It’s always fun being part of a team that’s building.”
Byfuglien and Ladd were key members of the Blackhawks team that won the Stanley Cup in 2010. Chicago’s defense of its title ended with a seven-game defeat to Vancouver in the opening round.
The Blackhawks faced the Thrashers once last season, a 5-4 shootout win in Atlanta on Nov. 6.
“It’s going to be pretty cool to go back in there and see the banner,” Ladd said of returning to the United Center. “It’ll be good to see everyone, but it would be nice to get a win in there too.”
Chicago (1-1-0) will be looking to build on a strong home debut. After falling 2-1 at Dallas on Friday, the Blackhawks got two goals from Dave Bolland(notes) the next night to finish the home-and-home series with a 5-2 victory.
Chicago started 8-9-2 in 2010-11 before finishing with 97 points, two ahead of ninth-place Dallas in the West and 15 fewer than it had during its first championship season in 49 years.
“It’s key, winning those games at the start,” Bolland said. “When you don’t, last year we battled for a playoff spot. … We want that early on in the season. We don’t want to battle for it at the end.”
To avoid a similarly slow start, the Blackhawks may need their power play to be better. They’re 1 for 11 with the man advantage after going 1 for 7 on Saturday.
“The numbers aren’t where we would like them to be, but it’s early,” center Patrick Sharp(notes) said. “We’re getting some good looks and good chances, but we know going forward that it’s going to be big for us.”
The Blackhawks are seeking a series-best fourth straight victory over the Jets franchise and have won the past two games in shootouts.
Winnipeg native Jonathan Toews(notes) had two goals and two assists in last season’s win over the Thrashers, while Patrick Kane(notes) had two goals and an assist. Kane has three goals and four assists in his four all-time matchups.
The Jets were 0 for 7 on the power play Sunday.