Too little, too late, as Jets fall to Blackhawks

Too little, too late, as Jets fall to Blackhawks

CHICAGO — The words just didn’t sound right coming out of the mouth of Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews.

As the Blackhawks were getting set to face the Winnipeg Jets for the second time this season, Toews was holding court in front of his locker following the morning skate and he was being totally genuine when he suggested his team should be considered the underdogs in the matchup.

If you go strictly by the standings, yes the Blackhawks could be considered an underdog, if there is such a thing during a January game in an 82-game NHL season.

Going into the contest, the Jets were sitting atop the Central Division standings, 13 points ahead of the Blackhawks, who had momentarily fallen below the playoff line in the Western Conference standings but were still in the fight.

“There are so many good players and so many good teams. You’ve really got to work to say on top,” said Toews, whose team moved back into a wild-card spot after a 2-1 win over the Jets on Friday at the United Center. “We’re having to work really hard to earn our success this year.”

The Blackhawks are still the Blackhawks, even if the complementary pieces around the core have changed dramatically after winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, 2013 and 2015.

And these Blackhawks are now 2-0 against the Jets this season.

“They’re a quick team, they give us some trouble,” said Jets captain Blake Wheeler, who nearly tied the game on a shot that rattled off the iron during the final 30 seconds. “We just weren’t able to make the extra play. We got a couple of looks but it just wasn’t enough.”

The Jets, who slipped to 26-12-7 on the season, lost for the first time in regulation since the Christmas break and are back in action on Saturday against the Minnesota Wild.

It’s the final game for the Jets before the five-day break mandated by the collective bargaining agreement.

The Blackhawks broke the deadlock at 4:51 of the second period when third-line centre David Kampf deflected home a point shot from Connor Murphy for his first NHL goal.

The Blackhawks had an interesting week before the Jets arrived, one that included making three-time Stanley Cup winner Brent Seabrook a healthy scratch on Tuesday against the Ottawa Senators.

Then on Wednesday, the Blackhawks made a trade with the Arizona Coyotes to bring in speedy forward Anthony Duclair.

Duclair chipped in an assist in his Blackhawks debut on Friday and is a low-risk pick-up with plenty of offensive upside – a one-time 20-goal scorer who needed a fresh start.

Speaking of story-lines, the legend of journeyman goalie Jeff Glass continues to grow.

Glass is more familiar to Manitobans, from his time serving as the starting goalie for the dominant Canadian team that captured the gold medal at the 2005 World Junior Hockey Championship in Grand Forks, N.D. that included the likes of Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Carter, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Shea Weber to name a few.

But Glass never got a shot in the NHL until Dec. 29 of 2017, when he made his first start at the age of 32.

Glass improved to 3-1-1 on Friday after making 31 saves against the Jets, whose lone goal came from Patrik Laine (his 20th), with 3:41 left in the third period.

Laine, who hit a post during the third period, also had a one-timer stopped by the right pad of Glass as the Jets pushed for the equalizer late in the contest.

“Yeah, he made a good save. I should have scored, but I couldn’t get (the shot) high enough,” said Laine. “We played well in the third and found a way to battle back. We never gave up. We had some scoring chances, including myself, but we just couldn’t capitalize.”

Shortly after that save, the Blackhawks extended the lead on a rare softie against Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck.

As Rutta walked in from the right point, he slipped a shot from near the bottom of the circle through Hellebuyck, who was named to the Central Division All-star team earlier this week along with Wheeler.

On Friday afternoon, the Jets needed to make a roster move after goalie Steve Mason wasn’t feeling well.

Mason was hit by a high shot during the morning skate, but Jets head coach Paul Maurice said it was too early to tell if Mason not feeling well was possibly related to sustaining another concussion.

“He got back to the hotel and wasn’t really feeling good at all,” said Maurice. “I can (say) that emphatically. I have absolutely no idea what it’s related to. We don’t want to take any chances with him, given his past history. I think he’s fine and we’ll see on (Saturday).”

Mason suffered the second concussion of his NHL career on Nov. 25 after he took a slapshot off the mask from San Jose Sharks forward Jannik Hansen.

Mason missed seven games because of the injury and has only started three games since.

With Mason unable to serve as the backup on Friday, the Jets summoned Michael Hutchinson from the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League.

To make room for Hutchinson, the Jets placed centre Adam Lowry on the injured reserve list, since he wasn’t likely to return until Jan. 20 anyway.

Since being sent to the minors, Hutchinson has been dynamite, posting a record of 14-2-4, while leading the AHL with a .942 save % and sitting third with a 1.94 goals-against average.

Hutchinson is up on emergency recall and isn’t expected to see any game action as Maurice is likely to go back with Hellebuyck on Saturday against the Wild.

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