Blackhawks-Jets Preview

The Associated Press

Growing up in Winnipeg, Jonathan Toews dreamed of playing a meaningful professional hockey game in his hometown.

The Chicago captain finally gets the chance Saturday when he tries to lead the Blackhawks to a third consecutive victory and help hand the Jets a third straight defeat.

Toews and Chicago faced Tampa Bay in a preseason game in Winnipeg prior to the 2010-11 season and he twice spent his day with the Stanley Cup there. He had an assist in the Blackhawks' 4-3 victory over the Jets on Oct. 13, 2011, but that came in Chicago.

Even with an NHL team back in Winnipeg, Toews remains a fan favorite there. He has a community center in town and a lake in Manitoba named after him, but returning to play a game that counts could trump both.

"This might be another one of those special moments," he said. "That's where it all started watching the Winnipeg Jets. I'm definitely looking forward to going home."

Toews, however, understands it's not a pleasure trip this time.

Chicago (8-2-3) has won two straight, highlighted by Toews' third-career hat trick in Tuesday's 6-5 comeback victory over Ottawa.

"We're playing better as a team and the focus is definitely on continuing our little winning streak right now," said Toews, who has five goals and four assists while recording at least a point in five straight contests.

Though Chicago has scored 11 goals in two games and at least five in three of the last four, it's also allowed at least five three times over that same four-game stretch. Backup Nikolai Khabibulin has yielded 10 goals in two starts during that span and was replaced by Corey Crawford on Tuesday after he gave up four on 22 shots.

With a home game versus Calgary on Sunday, it's uncertain if Khabibulin will play in either contest this weekend. Crawford, who stopped 14 of 15 shots against the Senators, has a 1.58 goals-against average during his three-game road winning streak.

Chicago has won four straight over the Winnipeg franchise, including the last three by one-goal margins, with two coming in a shootout.

Winnipeg (5-7-2) is in the midst of a 1-2-2 stretch where each contest has been decided by a goal. The Jets concluded a four-game trip with a second straight 3-2 loss Tuesday at St. Louis.

They led going into the third period at Colorado on Sunday and rallied to tie the game in the third against the Blues, but left both without a point.

"It's really disheartening," coach Claude Noel said. "We've got to find ways to repair some of these areas. They become different every night."

Blake Wheeler snapped the Jets' 0-for-26 power-play drought with a first-period goal Tuesday. Winnipeg ranks near the bottom of the league converting 11.1 percent (6 for 54) of its power-play chances and is 0 for 14 in the last five home games.

Wheeler, though, has scored four of his five goals in the last five contests.

"Things are finding me right now," he said. "I'm just getting to the net and being rewarded for it right now."

Chicago has a power-play goal in six straight games over 23 chances after going 5 for 27 in the first seven contests.

What to Read Next