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AT THE MORNING MEDIA AVAILABILITY
The Oilers arrived in Chicago late Saturday afternoon and, due to the early Sunday start, opted for a team meeting at the hotel instead of a morning skate at United Center. Following the meeting and the pre-game meal, Head Coach Tom Renney and the players addressed the media.
The last time the Oilers were in Chicago, the team pulled off an impressive 7-4 victory over the Blackhawks. Players and coaches are hoping for a similar result tonight, but they know it won't be easy to steal another two points from the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
"Certainly with Chicago we have a good residual feeling of what happened here, but we also know that we've got a team that's going to be out for revenge," Renney said. "They know what the formula is to win, there's no question about that, and we're still trying to discover it, but we're just maybe naive enough where we don't care who we're playing either.
"We've got to take advantage of that. Just go -- go play and push the envelope and put teams like this, who are maybe looking for a little more traction than they've had so far anyway, into some duress."
With a five-game road trip ahead for Edmonton, a win tonight could set a positive tone for a difficult stretch.
"We've got to get over that hump and get on the winning side of things and start the trip out right," Colin Fraser said. "It is a tough, long trip and to get out on the right foot would be obviously where we want to be."
Taylor Hall agrees but doesn't want to get ahead of the immediate challenge -- Chicago.
"I think if we can get some momentum that will definitely help us but we've got to take it one game at a time," the rookie said. "We can't be looking at the other games -- we've just got to focus on the process. We know that we're really close right now. If we can get over that hump and start getting some points and get on a win streak or something like that, that would be great."
Renney is looking forward to the road trip.
"This will be great," he said. "I think it's going to be a real acid test for our team in a number of ways -- how we prepare ourselves to play individually, how we do that obviously as a team, the opponents obviously will bring out I hope the best in us and probably expose us here and there too because of the nature of the trip and all that goes along with it. So it's a real important time for us, I'm really looking forward to getting on with it."
-- Jen Sharpe, edmontonoilers.com
Season Series: Second of four meetings this season -- the Oilers are paying their second visit to the United Center in a 10-day span and their first trip in was a productive one, as they claimed a 7-4 win behind a pair of goals from Sam Gagner. Top pick Taylor Hall and fellow rookie Jordan Eberle each had a goal and an assist.
Big Story: Edmonton, with eight points, is one of only two teams left in the NHL not to have reached double digits for the season -- New Jersey, with nine points, is the other. However, both those teams have earned wins at the United Center in the last two weeks, which should serve as a reminder to the Blackhawks that as defending Stanley Cup champions, they have giant targets on their backs. Beating Chicago is a big deal in general, but winning in the Madhouse on Madison -- where the Hawks are a mediocre 4-5-0 -- is a special feather in any opponent's cap.
Oilers: Instead of being the springboard toward a much-needed winning streak, Edmonton's win in Chicago has merely represented the lone bright spot in a 1-6-2 stretch since the Oilers started the season with back-to-back victories. They returned home after beating the Blackhawks and lost consecutive games to the Canucks and Red Wings at Rexall Place. Now they hit the road for five in a row, a possible make-or-break stretch if they want to avoid falling farther behind in the Western Conference race.
"It's going to be a good test for us," Eberle said. "We're playing some good hockey teams and we need to obviously try and play our game. We've had one game of success in Chicago, and I think that's obviously going to help us. We need to go in with the expectation of doing well and coming together."
Blackhawks: The potential for distractions to abound was present in Atlanta on Friday night, as Chicago faced off against several members of its 2010 championship team who were jettisoned over the summer due to salary-cap restrictions. Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Ben Eager each recorded an assist against their former teammates, but the Blackhawks maintained their focus and edged the Thrashers 5-4 when Viktor Stalberg scored in the fifth round of the shootout.
"We want to start climbing now and get out of the hole we dug for ourselves," said captain Jonathan Toews, who combined with Patrick Kane to score all four of Chicago's goals in regulation. "It's all about just improving our game every game and not taking steps back the way we have lately."
Who's Hot: Hall has 3 goals in the Oilers' last four games after going without one in his first seven NHL contests. … Kane has 4 goals and 5 assists in the last seven games for the Blackhawks.
Injury Report: Edmonton defenseman Theo Peckham is day-to-day with flu-like symptoms, while forwards Jean-Francois Jacques (back surgery) and Steve MacIntyre (back) are also out. … Chicago forward Marian Hossa is sidelined with a shoulder injury and forward Dave Bolland (ribs) is on injured reserve.
Stat Pack: Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin is 13-7-0 with one tie and a 2.33 goals-against average career against the Blackhawks, his team from 2005-09. … Patrick Sharp had 1 goal and 2 assists and Duncan Keith had 3 assists for the Hawks in the first meeting between these teams.
Puck Drop: Neither team is content with its current place in the standings -- Chicago carries the expectations of the defending Cup champs, while Edmonton wants to show improvement despite the growing pains that are inevitable with such a young roster.
"I don't think you can dwell on the losses too long," veteran defenseman Jim Vandermeer said. "I think you take the good things out of your game and try to apply them to the next game. That's definitely what we'll try to do (Sunday)."
-- Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer