Byfuglien, Ladd lead Jets into Chicago

Last weekend, NHL hockey returned to the city of Winnipeg for the first time in 15 years.

It will be a different sort of homecoming for a pair of Jets this evening as Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd return to the United Center to battle the Chicago Blackhawks.

Both Byfuglien and Ladd were a part of the Blackhawks' 2010 Stanley Cup- winning team, with Byfuglien notching 11 goals and 16 points in 22 playoff games and Ladd adding six points in 19 contests.

Despite the success, both players were traded in separate deals to the Atlanta Thrashers due to a salary cap crunch for the Blackhawks. Byfuglien also made the switch from forward to defense after the trade and sees some similarities between his current Jets club and former employer.

"I'm excited to move on," said Byfuglien. "Going to Atlanta as a young team, you know Chicago was young once, and it's always fun being a part of a team that builds from on up and be a part of everything."

Ladd and Byfuglien both faced the Blackhawks last year in a 5-4 shootout loss, but that game took place in Atlanta. It was Chicago's third victory in a row in this series and it has won three of the four all-time meetings at home against the young franchise.

"Not having been back there since we won, it's going to be pretty cool to go back in there and see the banner," said Ladd, Winnipeg's captain. "There's so many great memories when you go through something like that, so it will be good to see everyone but it would be nice to get a win in there too."

The Jets could not come up with a win in their home debut on Sunday, falling 5-1 to Montreal. It marked the first game in Winnipeg since the previous Jets club relocated to Phoenix following the 1995-96 season.

Nik Antropov scored the first goal in the new Jets history while goaltender Ondrej Pavelec stopped 17 shots in defeat.

"We were so excited for this moment, but it didn't go the way we wanted," Pavelec said. "It's sad, but it's only one game. Tomorrow's another day."

Winnipeg will now play four of its next five on the road and will take on a Chicago club that split a home-and-home series with the Dallas Stars to begin the season.

Following a 2-1 road setback on Friday, Dave Bolland scored twice to help the Blackhawks counter with a 5-2 home win the following night. Bolland had missed the opener with a lower-body injury.

Patrick Sharp had a goal and an assist, while both Andrew Brunette and Jonathan Toews lit the lamp. Corey Crawford made 19 saves for a 'Hawks team that is looking for a fast start after not getting into the playoffs until the final day of the regular season last year.

"I thought we had a lot more energy and made better decisions with the puck," Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said. "We had a little more patience with it."

Toews, a Winnipeg native, had plenty of jump in his step last year versus the Jets, notching a career-high four points on a pair of goals and two assists. Patrick Kane also scored twice and had an assist.

Tonight's starter in net for the Blackhawks is unknown after Crawford missed two days of practice with a lower-body injury. Though he did hit the ice on Wednesday, backup Ray Emery did not due to the flu and netminder Alexander Salak was recalled from the American Hockey League.

However, forward Dan Carcillo is expected to make his season debut and skated on a line with Marian Hossa and Kane during practice. He is expected to add another physical edge to the Blackhawks' game.

"I know I'm doing my job when I'm under guys' skins and they're thinking about me and they're not thinking about guys like Hossa and Kane and that's a mistake on their part," Carcillo said. "That's when breakdowns happen."

Carcillo signed with the Blackhawks this offseason, but was forced to miss the first two games due to a suspension handed to him during last year's playoffs while with the Philadelphia Flyers.