When the Winnipeg Jets play Chicago, former Blackhawks players Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien and many of the teammates with whom they won the Stanley Cup four seasons ago often exchange pleasantries. When playing in Chicago, as they will Sunday night, they are generally well-received by the fans.
That’s typically where the fun ends for Ladd and Byfuglien.
The Central Division-leading Blackhawks will go for their eighth straight win against the Jets franchise and sixth since shipping Ladd and Byfuglien to the then-Atlanta Thrashers before the 2010-11 season.
Byfuglien had 11 goals and Ladd six points during the Blackhawks’ 2010 Stanley Cup run, but the franchise they’ve been a part of the past four seasons has had little success against Chicago. The Blackhawks have won seven straight in the series, outscoring the Jets 23-12 in five since the move to Winnipeg.
Three of those meetings came in November as Chicago outscored the Jets 15-5. Patrick Sharp scored in each while Jonathan Toews had a goal and three assists in the last meeting, a 6-3 Chicago win in Winnipeg on Nov. 21.
Ladd and Byfuglien each had a goal and an assist in the loss.
Chicago (32-9-12) will likely be less concerned with the nostalgia of seeing its old teammates Sunday than it will be with ending a two-game skid after Thursday’s 2-1 loss at Minnesota.
"They’re good here at home and we didn’t look to get any greasy stuff at the net," coach Joel Quenneville told the team’s official website. "I thought we were a little bit too much on the outside and it’s tough to get direct plays, especially in the slot. We were maybe looking for that a little bit too much instead of the ugly stuff."
The Blackhawks fell behind 2-0 in the first period and didn’t get on the board until the game’s final minute. Assisted by Sharp and Nick Leddy, Patrick Kane’s goal was his first in 12 games, his longest drought since 2008-09.
Kane has 13 points in eight career games against Winnipeg, including goals in his last two.
Quenneville’s team now returns to Chicago for its last game at the United Center until March 4 due to a seven-game road stretch sandwiching the Olympic break followed by a game at Soldier Field against Pittsburgh.
The Jets (24-24-5) have won five times in six games with Paul Maurice leading the club after Byfuglien scored the overtime winner to beat visiting Toronto 5-4 on Saturday.
"The wins that we have been able to get (at home), that’s where the confidence gets built," Maurice told the team’s official website.
Ondrej Pavelec has been in net for all of those games, and despite yielding four goals on 28 shots against the Maple Leafs, he has a 1.98 goals-against average in that time. Backup Al Montoya hasn’t played since Jan. 5 and has allowed 10 goals in his last two starts.
Byfuglien had a two-point night and his OT goal came on assists from Ladd and Michael Frolik, a Stanley Cup winner with the 2012-13 Blackhawks, as the Jets put themselves in position to climb out of last place in the Central.
"I think that’s been our big thing around here: Sticking with the game plan and not getting away from it," Byfuglien said. "You stick with it, you’re bound to get your shots and opportunities to score. It’s just a matter of doing it when you get the chances."
Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little both matched Byfuglien’s goal and assist. Little has 10 points in a seven-game span.
Chicago’s Duncan Keith, second among defensemen with 46 points, missed his first game of the season against the Wild due to illness but is expected to return against the Jets.