PREVIEW: Oilers vs. Blackhawks
Oilers look to continue run against Blackhawks
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AT THE MORNING SKATE
The last time the Edmonton Oilers and Blackhawks played each other, the Oilers put on a solid offensive performance but fell just short of beating Chicago on the road, falling 5-4.
"It's definitely something where we've got to look at the positives from that game," said Oilers defenceman Jeff Petry. "We did play well for the majority of the game. We had a few lapses and they capitalized on it. I think it's just a matter of sticking with the game plan and sticking with things that work for us and we should be alright."
The Oilers have seemed to play the Blackhawks well in recent history, winning 6 of 12 since 2010, with one of their six losses having been in overtime. The feeling around the dressing room is that there is almost a boost in performance whenever they take on Chicago, a team consistently near the top of the NHL standings.
"We've had some success against them and it's mostly been because of the way we've come out and played," said Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk. "We had a close one with them in Chicago and I guess, when you get a team that's as talented and plays as well as a group as they do, they're probably one of the best if not the best with how they play together consistently. If that's a little extra motivation to get up, we'll use it."
Sam Gagner is an Edmonton player who has seen much success against Chicago in his career with 21 points in 23 games against the Blackhawks.
EMBRACING A CHALLENGE
The Oilers will put their three-game winning streak on the line when they host Chicago tonight, but the team is not backing down from the challenge. The defenceman of the Oilers in particular have a vested interest in seeing where they measure up against a potent offence like the one presented by Chicago.
The 'Hawks boast three players with over 20 points on the season, and three more with over 15.
"It's something that we look forward to," said Petry. "It's a good test for us as a defensive core and as a team. We played well against them the majority of the game in Chicago but didn't get the result we wanted too. Here's a chance. We're coming off of three wins but it's definitely going to be a strong test for us tonight."
The Oilers have remained successful as of late, partially due to the play of starting goaltender Devan Dubnyk. The Oilers' goalie was named the NHL's 'Third Star of the Week' for the week ending on November 24.
During that week, Dubnyk was 2-0-0 with a .50 GAA and .974 save percentage.
"It's nice and it's fun, it's been great. Obviously, those are nice things to get recognized for but definitely, you could say pretty easily, this week was a good team effort from everybody. I'm certainly happy to get that but going forward here, if we can keep up what we're doing as a group, that's where we'll get the success for sure."
KEEPING THE POWER IN THE POWER PLAY
The Oilers have been extremely successful on special teams lately. Edmonton ranks ninth overall in the NHL on the power play and a lot of that success is due to the Oilers new five-forward power play unit.
With putting five forwards on the ice for the power play, a team runs the risk of the opponents getting some short-handed rushes. But Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins thinks his team is up to the challenge presented by Chicago's penalty kill unit.
"Those five forwards understand that if there's a breakdown happening, someone hit the alarm," said Eakins. "Alarms should be going off in their heads to get the hell back and support. We can't just throw caution to the wind… When that unit or, and for that case, both units right now are getting good looks on our power plays, I'm not breaking them up just because we're playing against a team. Will I hold my breath a little longer if there's some close action at our blue line? Maybe so. But those five guys fully understand what they're out there against. They understand the danger and it's up to them to recognize it and get the hell out of there if there are problems brewing."
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
BLACKHAWKS (16-4-4) at OILERS (7-15-2)
TV: CSN-CH, SNET-W
Last 10: Chicago 7-2-1; Edmonton 4-6-0
Season series: This is the second of three meetings between the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers. The Blackhawks edged the Oilers 5-4 thanks to a three-goal third period in the first game Nov. 10 at United Center.
Big story: Chicago and Edmonton each boast exciting offensive talent as the nine goals scored in the first game would attest, but the two teams currently sit at opposite ends on the standings. The Blackhawks' 36 points are second-most in the Western Conference and the Oilers' 16 are the fewest. However, Edmonton's young guns come into the game Monday with a three-game winning streak and will try to make a statement when they host the defending champions.
Blackhawks: The Blackhawks' visit to Edmonton will mark the midway point of their annual Circus Trip. This year's lengthy trek out west did not get off to the best start, a 5-1 drubbing against the rival Colorado Avalanche, but Chicago has since gotten its traveling house in order with a 6-3 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night and a stunning 2-1 victory against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
The Blackhawks' win in Vancouver came courtesy of a third-period rally in which Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger each scored within a span of nine seconds, which was eerily reminiscent of their Cup-clinching outburst in June when the Blackhawks scored two goals in 17 seconds late in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
"It can turn around pretty quick if we get some chances," goalie Corey Crawford said afterward. "Especially the opportunities we got. They were A-plus chances, and usually we bury those."
Those wins have helped Chicago keep pace with its nearest rivals and in first place in the Central Division, but the Blackhawks' nearest chasers are nipping at their heels. The St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild are all within two points of Chicago, while St. Louis and Colorado each have two games in hand.
Oilers: The Oilers' collection of talent is no secret, but it hasn't translated to wins as quickly as they hoped. That may be starting to change. The Oilers, who have the second-fewest points in the League, have scored 15 total goals in their three straight wins. It has changed the atmosphere around the team, which enjoyed a three-day break this past weekend.
"It's nice," Defenseman Justin Schultz said after practice Saturday. "Coming to the rink after winning games is something that we haven't had a lot of this year. It makes it more fun for us to come here and hang out for with the guys and it's a fun atmosphere."
Edmonton's game against Chicago will close a three-game homestand, which it opened with a 7-0 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets this past Tuesday. A win would give Edmonton a sweep of a homestand of two or more games for just the third time in the past three seasons.
Who's hot: Crawford looked like a championship goalie in Vancouver, stopping 36 of 37 shots. His 15 wins are tops in the League. ... David Perron has four goals and two assists in the past three games for Edmonton.
Injury report: Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa (personal reasons) and center Michal Handzus (hand injury) are both questionable to play Monday. Chicago recently lost left wing Bryan Bickell (lower-body injury) until early December. Goalie Richard Bachman (lower-body injury) and right wing Tyler Pitlick (knee injry) are out indefinitely for the Oilers.
-- David Kalan, NHL.com