Blackhawks News

3 Chicago Blackhawks To Watch Against Winnipeg

By Colin Likas
Mar 16, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice speaks to his players against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 16, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice speaks to his players against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Let’s not make it five in a row. How about it, Chicago Blackhawks?

The team is currently mired in a four-game slump during which it has compiled just one point. Tonight offers a chance to break that negative run, as the Blackhawks travel to Winnipeg to face a Jets teams that is well out of the playoff hunt.

The Jets are ahead of only the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference, though both teams have 63 points. They traded their captain, Andrew Ladd, to the Blackhawks ahead of the trade deadline for a package that sent Marko Dano to the Jets. Interestingly, the two players have seen their offensive stats trend in opposite directions since the move, but both clubs are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games.

Let’s get to the projected lines for this game, starting with the constantly changing Blackhawks.

Andrew Ladd-Jonathan ToewsMarian Hossa

Artemi PanarinArtem AnisimovPatrick Kane

Tomas FleischmannAndrew ShawDale Weise

Andrew DesjardinsDennis RasmussenRichard Panik

Duncan KeithNiklas Hjalmarsson

Erik GustafssonBrent Seabrook

Trevor van RiemsdykMichal Rozsival

Scott DarlingMichael Leighton

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Most noticeable would be Corey Crawford‘s absence, as he’s sidelined with an unclear upper-body injury. Coach Joel Quenneville gave his typical “We’ll see” answer as to whether or not Crow would be available Sunday against Minnesota. Teuvo Teravainen is also questionable due to an illness, which was bugging him before Wednesday’s game against Philadelphia. If Teuvo does play, the guess would be he slots in on the third line, bumping Shaw to the fourth in favor of Panik.

Christian Ehrhoff will also take a seat despite playing well against Philly. Of course, the game-winning goal did deflect off Ehrhoff before beating Darling, so Ehrhoff is getting the Nick Leddy treatment. Meanwhile, TVR gets to keep being out of position on multiple goals against. Should be a good time.

On to the Jets.

Drew StaffordMark ScheifeleBlake Wheeler

Mathieu Perreault-Alex Burmistrov-Marko Dano

Scott KosmachukAdam LowryChris Thorburn

Matt HalischukAndrew CoppJ.C. Lipon

Tobias Enstrom-Dustin Byfuglien

Jacob TroubaTyler Myers

Ben ChiarotPaul Postma

Ondrej PavelecMichael Hutchinson

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Wheeler is having a career year with 62 points in 70 games, but he hasn’t gotten much help. Scheifele, Perreault and Byfuglien all have 40 points or more, as does the injured Bryan Little. Dano has five points in 10 games — including three goals — since being traded from the Blackhawks. You know he’ll want to show his former team what it’s missing out on.

The defense has some interesting pieces, but they haven’t been able to support the goaltending much. And that, ultimately, is what has sank the Jets. Pavelec missed a large portion of the season due to injury, and he wasn’t very good before that absence. Hutchinson hasn’t been very good this season, either, and the now-sent-down Connor Hellebuyck tried his best to hold down the fort but could only get so far in front of a “meh” defense and so-so offense.

Let’s look at three Blackhawks to watch tonight at MTS Centre.

chicago blackhawks
Mar 6, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks left wing Andrew Ladd (16) with the puck during the first period against the Detroit Red Wings at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

Andrew Ladd

Since contributing a few points in his first few games with the Blackhawks, Ladd has gone cold. This culminated in his positioning on the third line Wednesday, as Q tried to find line combinations that would produce offense. With Teuvo potentially out and the Blackhawks still struggling to produce even-strength scoring against Philadelphia, Ladd returns to the top line.

He also returns to his former home for the previous 4 1/2 seasons. A large media throng met Ladd at MTS Centre this morning. Maybe he’ll be fired up to play in his old home. We should really hope so, because the Blackhawks’ offense needs to get things going, especially in the top six, and especially at even strength. Ladd should be looked to tonight to produce.

chicago blackhawks
Mar 11, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Erik Gustafsson (52) skates against the Dallas Stars during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Stars defeat the Blackhawks 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

Erik Gustafsson

The defense has never been in more disarray, with Rozsival seeing serious minutes Wednesday while Gustafsson sat. I have no problem with Gustafsson coming back in, though I wish it was for TVR and not Ehrhoff. It’s not clear what kind of minutes Gustafsson will get tonight, but with the Jets being on last change and having a size advantage over the Blackhawks, it’d be nice to see Gustafsson stick out in a positive way.

With the playoffs getting closer and closer, there are fewer and fewer opportunities for Gustafsson to prove he deserves to be a part of the playoff blue line. And since he’s probably the best sixth man option available, it’d be great to see him start to make more of a positive impact on games.

chicago blackhawks
Mar 11, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Chicago Blackhawks right wing Dale Weise (25) and Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) in action during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Stars defeat the Blackhawks 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

Dale Weise

Weise has just one assist in his last six games, but he’s getting a go on the third line with previous Montreal teammate Fleischmann. Having Shaw center the line isn’t the best option, but that may be how it goes if Teuvo is deemed too sick to play. I still think this line can produce with Shaw at center, and I think Weise could have a breakout game as a result. The Jets won’t be focused so much on this line, which boasts speed in Fleischmann and Weise and grinders in Weise and Shaw. It could be a useful tool in the Blackhawks’ breaking out of their even-strength scoring struggles.

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