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AT THE MORNING SKATE
The Edmonton Oilers wrap up a three-game road trip tonight in Chicago. It's the first time this season that the team has played back-to-back games. A win tonight would give the team a very respectable 1-0-2 record (4 points) on the road swing.
"It's good to be playing," said head coach Tom Renney. "Back-to-back games is not a bad thing. We've got an opportunity to see, number one what we're all about and number two what we're all about against a good team."
Renney felt confident about what type of performance he might get from his team tonight.
"I think we're going to be all right. I think we're going to play hard tonight, I think we're going to give Chicago something to think about. The big thing for me is to play 200x85 responsibly, with some passion and we'll see what we're made of."
Nikolai Khabibulin will get the start in goal tonight for the Oilers after Devan Dubnyk put in a strong performance in Columbus last night.
"It was cool to watch a game from upstairs just to see what the guys are doing," Khabibulin remarked.
Squaring off against his former team, the Stanley Cup Champions on back-to-back nights, Khabibulin was aware of the difficulty of the situation.
"It's going to be a big challenge for us," he continued. "We have to have our A game to beat them."
Head Coach Tom Renney wasn't tipping his hand when it came to who would dress tonight between Zack Stortini and Steve MacIntyre.
"I'm going to make a game-time decision in a couple of instances," he said, noting that Kurtis Foster did skate today and he will make a call on his playing status as well.
THE RETURN OF FRASER
Oilers forward Colin Fraser makes his return to the city where he collected a Stanley Cup ring last season. Fraser stated that he was looking forward to tonight's match-up but that it'll be a little strange to be on the opposite side of the ice.
"I've never really been in this situation before, being traded and playing against friends. It'll be different but I'm really looking forward to it. It should be fun," Fraser remarked.
Blackhawks forward Fernando Pisani will also be facing his former team for the first time.
"From a distance, watching him play I always had a huge respect for his ability to play a complete game," said Renney.
THE DAY AFTER
Taylor Hall wasn't getting too high or too low the day after he scored his first career NHL goal.
"It's nice to get that first one out of the way but I can't not have a good game tonight because then it's not going to mean anything. I have to be consistent every night."
The marker was a timely one as it knotted the game up at 2-2 and earned the Oilers a point in the come-from-behind win. Tonight Hall has another motivation, playing against the Blackhawks' young superstars.
"It's obviously very exciting. It's different than playing the other superstars in the league because these guys are so young and so close to our age," said Hall. "At the same time, this would be a huge win for us."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
Season series -- The teams are meeting for the first time this season. The Blackhawks swept the four games last season, winning all four in regulation.
Big story -- The Oilers' euphoria at winning their first two games has been dimmed by the harsh reality that they were the 30th-place team in the NHL last season for a reason. Thursday night's 3-2 shootout loss was their sixth in a row after the two opening victories, and a visit to the defending Stanley Cup champs isn't the ideal way to end a losing streak.
Oilers -- Edmonton did get a point in Columbus. But what might prove to be more important is that No. 1 draft pick Taylor Hall scored his first NHL goal. Hall, who had a single assist through seven games, doubled that total when he set up Shawn Horcoff's first-period goal, then got his first goal in the NHL midway through the third period by deflecting Theo Peckham's slapper past Steve Mason.
"Definitely not the prettiest goal of my life, but I'll take it for sure," Hall said afterwards. "It was a big goal for our team as well. I've been waiting a long time and I've been asked about it a million times. I put a lot of pressure on myself just because it's out there. I definitely wanted to score tonight and I had a feeling before the game that this was going to be the night."
Blackhawks -- The Hawks' 3-1 victory on Wednesday came at a price: Star forward Marian Hossa left with an upper-body injury and is likely to miss a couple of weeks, though it won't require surgery.
The Hawks will need some help to make up for Hossa's 7 goals and 11 points.
"We need him back," forward Patrick Sharp said. "He's a big part of our team. Even if he's not scoring goals, he draws a lot of the tough checkers and does so much to help our team."
Who's hot -- Defenseman Ryan Whitney leads the Oilers with 8 points, all assists, in eight games. … Sharp has 8 goals in his last seven games.
Injury report -- Oilers defenseman Kurtis Foster is day-to-day with a groin injury and didn't play Thursday. … Hossa's injury could have been a chance for highly regarded prospect Jeremy Morin to get a callup from AHL Rockford, but he's also hurt.
Stat pack -- Edmonton's last four victories at the United Center have all come in overtime or shootouts. The Oilers' last regulation win in Chicago was 4-3 on Jan. 4, 2004. The Hawks are 7-0-1 against Edmonton in the past two seasons.
Puck drop -- Tom Renney knew that taking over the team that finished last in the overall standings in 2009-10 wasn't going to be a joyride. Eight games in, he says he's seeing progress.
"The kids are just playing," Renney said. "They understand they are getting an opportunity here and they certainly don't want to let anybody down. This is a good point in time to have them."
-- John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist