Game preview: Blackhawks seeking an Oil change
Games against the Oilers haven't gone quite the way Chicago would have liked - or expected - this season. The Blackhawks are 1-2-0 against Edmonton so far this season. After a handy 6-3 win early in the season at the United Center, they cruised into Edmonton in November on the heels of an PPG-heavy embarassing loss to the Canucks - only to get stomped 9-2 in another PPG-laden game. The Oilers also took the last match 4-3 in Chicago.
Do the Blackhawks want a little payback? No doubt. "We got our teeth kicked in here last time," Coach Quenneville stated this afternoon. Back in mid-November, with the score 9-2, the Oilers fans were chanting "We want ten." That chant still rings in the Blackhawks' ears. But the team also knows they have to be smart, and the best way to give a little payback is to play smart, and more importantly, win - especially on Oilers ice in the teams' fourth and final meeting of the season.
Corey Crawford (18-12-5, 2.86, .902%) will be in goal for Chicago; Devan Dubnyk (8-11-1, 2.83, .911%) will tend the pipes for Edmonton on his 4th consecutive start. Edmonton is 2-0-1 on their past 3 starts (3-5-2 last 10), two of which went to shootouts, while Chicago is looking to break a three game losing streak (5-2-3 last ten).
Edmonton is still missing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Tom Gilbert, and Cam Barker; Chicago got Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp back on Tuesday in time for the road trip. Winger Daniel Carcillo, who was injured during the last CHI-EDM game in January, has undergone knee surgery and is out for the remainder of the season.
There is no doubt that the Oilers miss RNH's scoring touch, but the Oilers can still be dangerous, with scorers like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle in the lineup. After holding on to a top-8 position early in the season, the Oilers have fallen all the way to 14th in the West. While they're 11 points ahead of the Blue Jackets, they're 12 points out of playoff contention - which means they're more likely to play the role of spoiler as they finish off their season.
Chicago needs to continue focusing on tight defense, solid passing, and improving their goaltending. Tuesday's game vs. Vancouver showed that the Blackhawks have the tools and skills to contend once again, but the game ended when Chicago got caught flat-footed in overtime. The Blackhawks need to be dissatisfied with the errors and problems that have shadowed them this season, and fix them before the final stretch into the playoffs. Chicago is still seeking another top-6 D-man as the trade deadline approaches; their current rotating 6ths (Lepisto, O'Donnell, and Scott) need to step up their game.
Expect a spirited game in Edmonton tonight, as the Blackhawks battle to keep their footing in the Western standings, and the Oilers hope to own the series final.
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Where to watch: 8:30 p.m. Thursday; TV: CSN-Chicago, radio: WGN-AM 720 (phone app also available)