While the rest of the hockey world is distracted by the Stadium Series, the Chicago Blackhawks face a must-win situation — or about as close as you can get in January — when they face the Winnipeg Jets in their last game at the United Center until March 4. The Hawks have been struggling for much of the 2014 calendar year, which has caused some fans to get agitated. The Jets, meanwhile, are in last place in the Central Division.
Perhaps the Blackhawks simply need a familiar face to beat up on to regain some confidence. The Blackhawks have not lost against the Atlanta Thrashers/Jets franchise since 2007. However, the Jets have won four of their last five games under new head coach Paul Maurice. The Jets are likely going to set themselves up as a trap game for the Blackhawks, which they shouldn’t fall for. The Jets’ offense has been soaring like a jet (forgive the pun, but it was irresistible), led by Andrew Ladd (a former Blackhawk) and Evander Kane. With the way they’ve been playing and with their speed and power, they could give the Blackhawks’ defense a handful.
The good news for the Blackhawks is that Duncan Keith should return from a stomach flu that kept him out of the game against the Minnesota Wild. His return should provide stability to the defense and some energy to the team, which was severely lacking in the game against the Wild. Also, now that Patrick Kane has finally scored in the 2014 calendar year, he should have more of his confidence back. To have him score in his 500th NHL game would make a great story.
But the Blachawks badly need this win. It will be their last game in the UC until March 4, their last home game until their Stadium Series game against he Pittsburgh Penguins. The Blackhawks will need to come into the game motivated and ready to beat up on their Central Division rivals. However, the Jets should make the game rather interesting and the Blackhawks should not underestimate them.