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Jets-Blackhawks Preview

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The Winnipeg Jets have pulled out some close games during a successful stretch. Their next opponent has been on the wrong end of most of those contests in the past 10 days.

The Chicago Blackhawks, though, have usually come out on top in recent matchups with the Jets and will seek another win in the series Sunday night.

Winnipeg (5-5-1) is 3-0-1 in its last four games with all of those decided by one goal or in a shootout. The Jets went the latter route for a 1-0 road victory over the New York Rangers on Saturday.

Evander Kane had the winning shot in the tiebreaker and Ondrej Pavelec made 38 saves in his first shutout this season.

“(Pavelec has) been really good from training camp on and (Saturday night) he was our best player by far,” coach Paul Maurice told the league’s official website. “He needs to be able to get some confidence out of these games. He needs more than ‘Geez, you played well and we couldn’t score enough.’

“Good for him. He’s earned it. He’s got all the respect in the world from the players in that locker room. He competes hard and battles hard.”

Chicago (6-4-1) is 2-4-0 in its last six with all of those games decided by one goal or a shootout. After winning 5-4 over Ottawa in a shootout Thursday, the Blackhawks fell 3-2 in Toronto on Saturday despite another sizable margin in shots.

Chicago outshot the Maple Leafs 47-27 and 26-7 in the final period while being held off the scoreboard. Toronto scored the go-ahead goal 2:21 into the third.

The Blackhawks have outshot their past four opponents 169-117 and gone 2-2-0. They’ve also scored two goals or fewer in five of their last six contests.

“You don’t win, obviously there’s cause for concern,” forward Patrick Kane said. “Try to regroup here, we’ve got a big one tomorrow obviously going home playing Winnipeg, a division game, hopefully our fans give us a little bit of a boost and we can regroup.”

The Blackhawks had won seven in a row over the Jets franchise dating back to its days in Atlanta before a 3-1 home loss Jan. 26.

The Blackhawks outscored their new Central Division rivals 15-5 in the first three matchups, all in November.

Patrick Sharp had a team-best three goals and one assist in those games, and Jonathan Toews had five points (two goals, three assists). Sharp, though, has gone four straight games without a point while Toews has three goals in that stretch with two coming in Thursday’s win.

Toews, seeking his 200th career goal, has four goals and six assists in his last six games against the Jets franchise. Sharp has five goals and seven assists in his past 10 matchups.

They might face Pavelec, who has a 1.19 GAA in the Jets’ last four games, or Winnipeg could give Michael Hutchinson his second start this season and fifth in his career. Pavelec is 0-3-2 in five lifetime matchups against Chicago with a 4.61 GAA, his worst against any opponent.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wouldn’t commit to a goaltender for Sunday following Saturday’s loss. Corey Crawford, who returned from a six-game absence (upper body) in Toronto, started all four games against Winnipeg last season and posted a 1.76 GAA.

Antti Raanta, 1-2-0 with a 2.03 GAA, hasn’t started since Oct. 25.

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