CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (12-8-1) at
EDMONTON OILERS (8-13-1)
8:08 p.m. MST
630 CHED, Oilers Radio Network and online at edmontonoilers.com.
In the past few seasons, a visit from the Chicago Blackhawks generally meant a game against one of the league’s bottom feeders – a team the Oilers could beat no problem provided they made little mistakes.
This season, that has all changed.
After missing the playoffs four straight seasons and eight of the last nine, the Chicago Blackhawks appear poised to enter the postseason this year after a very impressive start to the season.
And unlike some teams who get off to fast starts and then fizzle out, the ‘Hawks have been consistently getting better as the season has gone on – despite their top sniper Martin Havlat being on the shelf for the majority of the season. Chicago is 7-2-1 in its last 10 games after a big 2-1 win in Calgary on Thursday.
In their last game, the Oilers were edged 3-2 by the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs scored the game's first goal before Edmonton tied it up on a Shawn Horcoff
power play marker. Colorado went ahead again in the second period before Ales Hemsky
evened it at 2-2. Marek Svatos scored the winner midway through the second period.
Tonight is Edmonton’s first match against a non-Northwest Division opponent in nine games. It is also the Oilers first of four meetings against the Blackhawks this season.
Just The Facts...
LINEUP UPDATE (12:54 PM):
Martin Havlat skated this morning with the Blackhawks but afterwards said he wasn't quite ready to return to the lineup yet.
LINEUP UPDATE (11:39 AM):
Dwayne Roloson will get the start tonight in goal for the Oilers. Otherwise, the team will be icing the same lineup as it did on Thursday.
OILERS TO WATCH:
Tonight will be a battle of the rookies with four of the league’s top freshmen on the ice together for the first time this season… On Edmonton’s side, Andrew Cogliano
and Sam Gagner
have been teamed up on the same line the past few games. Cogliano, drafted in 2005 and 20 years old, is third on the Oilers in scoring. Through 22 games, he has four goals and 13 points… Sam Gagner
is fifth on the team. The 18 year old has played in 21 of the team’s first 22 games and collected nine points.
BLACKHAWKS TO WATCH:
In the red corner, the Chicago Blackhawks have the top two rookie scorers in the entire NHL. Patrick Kane was Sam Gagner
’s linemate last season with the London Knights (OHL). He was drafted first overall in this past June’s NHL Entry Draft while Gagner was drafted sixth. Kane has 22 points through the first 21 games of the season to lead his team and all NHL rookies in scoring… Jonathan Toews was teammates with both Gagner and Cogliano at the most recent World Junior Hockey Championships in Leksand, Sweden. At age 19, he was drafted third overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He has eight goals and 16 points through 19 games.
Edmonton – Sheldon Souray
(shoulder) is out. Ethan Moreau (foot) is out. Matt Greene (ankle) is out. Mathieu Roy (shoulder) is out. Fernando Pisani (colitis) is out; Chicago – Jason Williams (groin) is day-to-day. Tuomo Ruutu (flu) is doubtful. Martin Havlat (shoulder) is out. Kevyn Adams (knee) is out. Rene Bourque (broken thumb) is out.
The Blackhawks have played the Western Conference-leading Detroit Red Wings four times already this season and have come away with four wins. The Wings are 14-5-1 this season but 0-3-1 versus their original six rivals… The Blackhawks have been very effective in killing penalties on the road. Coming into Thursday’s game in Calgary, the Blackhawks have allowed just three power play goals on the road while killing 38 of 41 shorthanded situations. That 94.4% road penalty killing ranks 1st in the NHL… With 10 shorthanded goals, the Blackhawks lead the NHL in that category. On Thursday, both of their goals were shorthanded in a 2-1 win over Calgary. Last week the Blackhawks had three shorthanded markers in one game en route to a 5-3 win over Detroit
Former teammates go head-to-head tonight -
Four of the top rookies in the NHL get together tonight at Rexall Place and among them Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Edmonton’s Sam Gagner
have a bit of a history with one another. ...more
- Roloson, Sanderson, Penner & MacTavish comment on tonight's game vs. the Blackhawks. 700K
- Gagner, Cogliano & MacTavish comment on the rookie talent facing each other in tonight's game vs. Chicago. 700K
- Watch post-practice interviews with Staios, Horcoff, Stoll and MacTavish. 700K
The Other Side
Features from chicagoblackhawks.com
- Send in the Clowns - chicagoblackhawks.com contributor Van Oler shares his thoughts on the Blackhawks' current circus road trip and why this year is different. ...more
- One Minute Remaining chicagoblackhawks.com contributor Harvey Wittenberg shares his thoughts on why 13 is the magic number for the Blackhawks. ...more
Item of the Game
Each game, a different item is featured at The Oilers Store at Rexall Place.
Tonight's item is a Mens and Ladies Tickets for Troops T-Shirt ($19.99).
From the Fans
Odds and Ends
- Tom Gilbert on Oilers Live - Oilers rookie Tom Gilbert was a guest on Oilers Live on Friday afternoon. The defenceman stopped into the Oilers office and chatted with Morley Scott for about 30 minutes, answering your questions. ...more
Get on board with Oilers audio and video podcasts! - Edmonton Oilers Christmas Packs are back in time for the holiday season, with your chance to give the gift of hockey to the Oilers fan in your life. Follow the link to find out more information and to register. ...more
- New Oilers Player Wallpaper Available! - You can now download the following players: Cogliano, Gagner, Greene, Hemsky, Horcoff, Moreau, Nilsson, Penner, Pitkanen, Roloson, Sanderson, Souray, Stoll, Tarnstrom and Torres with more coming soon! ...more
- Tickets for Troops Online Auction - Proceeds from the Tickets For Troops Online Auction will go to the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation and the Garrison Edmonton Military Family Resource Centre. ...more
From the Wire
Whether it's due to injuries or penalties, playing short-handed has hardly been a problem for the Chicago Blackhawks this season.
After losing two straight to open their six-game road trip, the Blackhawks look to win their third in a row away from home for the first time in two years when they face the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.
With two more forwards out with injuries, the Blackhawks scored a pair of short-handed goals in a 2-1 win at Calgary on Thursday to improve to 2-1-1 on their extended road swing that ends Sunday in Vancouver.
Chicago hasn't won three in a row on the road since Nov. 10-19, 2005, which included wins over Calgary and Edmonton.
The Blackhawks (12-8-1), who had 12 short-handed goals while finishing last in the Central Division in 2006-07, has an NHL-leading 10 this season after scoring five in its last two contests. They scored three with a man down in a 5-3 win at Detroit last Saturday for their first win on the trip.
Chicago last scored a short-handed goal in three straight games from March 16-21, 1995.
"We're aggressive all over the ice, we're blocking a lot of shots, and we have good speed with our forwards," said Patrick Sharp, who scored his league-leading fifth short-handed goal Thursday and second in two games. "Put all that together, throw in a little bit of luck and a few good bounces."
Sharp has five of his team-high 11 goals in his last three contests. His only goal in seven games against Edmonton was short-handed in Chicago's 2-1 home win on April 4 in the teams' most recent meeting.
Jacob Dowell scored in his NHL debut Thursday and is the latest rookie to contribute for the Blackhawks. First-year players Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have combined for 15 goals and 38 points.
"It's a great feeling. I've worked hard and it's finally paying off, getting my chance here," the 22-year-old Dowell said.
Dowell was called up after Rene Bourque was lost for up to six weeks with a broken thumb. Chicago also played without veteran Jason Williams, who is day-to-day with a sore groin.
The Blackhawks are still awaiting the return of Martin Havlat, who has missed 20 games with a shoulder injury.
"With all the guys going down, it's getting tough. We're pretty thin," Chicago coach Denis Savard said. "It's difficult when you have to slot certain players into certain positions and move them up a couple slots, but we've just got to hang in there."
Nikolai Khabibulin made 30 saves Thursday for his second straight win and fifth in his last seven starts. He went 2-1-0 with a 1.36 goals-against average last season against Edmonton.
The Blackhawks have won just twice in their last 13 visits to Edmonton, losing their last three trips.
The Oilers (8-13-1), though, are 4-7-0 at home this season and are tied with Los Angeles for the fewest points overall (17) in the Western Conference.
Edmonton fell 3-2 to Colorado on Thursday for its third loss in four contests on its season-high six-game homestand.
"We had a (season) high number of turnovers tonight," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "You can't be turning the puck over like that."
Shawn Horcoff had a goal and an assist for the second straight game, and he leads Edmonton with nine goals and 20 points. Horcoff has six goals and nine assists in 21 games against the Blackhawks.
Mathieu Garon stopped 28 shots in his fifth start in the team's last six games ahead of No. 1 goaltender Dwayne Roloson, who has lost five in a row. Garon could be back in net Saturday, with a 4-1-0 career record and 1.93 GAA versus Chicago.