Blackhawks Seek Revenge vs Edmonton
The last time these two teams met, the result was a lopsided blowout and a 9-2 victory for the Edmonton Oilers. Since that meeting on November 19th, the teams have gone in opposite directions.
The Chicago Blackhawks sit at the top of the Western Conference with 52 points, having gone 10-2-1 in the month of December. On the other hand, the Oilers have gone 3-11-1 in their last 15 games, have lost their last 3 games in a row, as well as 7 straight on the road, and sit 13th in the West, 10 points behind the 8th and final playoff spot.
The Blackhawks will look to start 2012 much like they finished 2011 after beating the Detroit Red Wings 3-2, but they won't be at full-strength.
Steve Montador and Marcus Kruger are out tonight for the Blackhawks, and Coach Joel Quenneville said this morning that John Scott and Sami Lepisto will be the 3rd defensive pairing this evening. Corey Crawford will get his 5th straight start in net for the Blackhawks. Crawford is 3-1-0 in his last 4 since returning in net, posting a 1.52 GAA.
Devan Dubnyk will start in net for the Oilers, saving Nikolai Khabibulin for a start against the Buffalo Sabres as part of a back-to-back on Tuesday night. Dubnyk started the Oilers' last game Saturday night against the New York Islanders and gave up 4 goals in his first 9 shots seen before settling down.
Rookie Jimmy Hayes will play again for Chicago after making his NHL debut against the Red Wings and impressing in limited time. Hayes nearly scored on his first shift and threw his big frame around, registering 4 hits in just over 8 minutes.
If the Blackhawks are to stay hot, they'll need to play solid defense in front of Crawford like they did against the Red Wings. The offensive production of late has come from a number of sources, but primarily Marian Hossa, whose 41 points in 37 games leads the team.
There are still a number of "slumping" players for the Hawks. Patrick Kane's lack of goal-scoring has been a top of discussion recently, but is perhaps overlooked because the team has been winning and he still leads the team with 26 assists. The struggles of Michael Frolik, Bryan Bickell and to an extent, Andrew Brunette, need to turn around quickly, as the team can't expect to rely on Hossa, Toews, Sharp and Kane for all the scoring, all the time.
Keys to the Game:
- Traffic in front of the net: The Hawks haven't been able to get much the last two games against LA and DET. Sustaining puck posession and getting bodies in front will help score some of those garbage goals which it seems the Hawks have been giving up lately.
- Power Play: The Hawks sit in the middle of the pack in the NHL with an 18.6% conversion rate on the power play, but they have struggled a lot recently. They are 1 for their last 12 and haven't scored on the man-advantage since the 4-1 win over Columbus.
- Solid defense: Hjalmarsson played one of his best games this season against Detroit after playing poorly against LA. It'll be interesting to see how Scott and Lepisto do as the 3rd pairing. Scott has played sparingly, but primarily at forward. And Lepisto hasn't seen game action since December 11th.
Players to Watch:
- CHI Marian Hossa: 17 G, 24 A, 43 PT, hot hand on the Blackhawks
- CHI Viktor Stalberg: 9 G, 13 A, 22 PT, playing with a lot of confidence
- EDM Jordan Eberle: 16 G, 23 A, 39 PT, leading scorer for Oilers, 4 pts in last meeting
- EDM Taylor Hall: 10 G, 14 A, 24 PT, scored hat-trick in last meeting
- CHI Corey Crawford: 15-8-2, 2.77 GAA, .910 SV%
- EDM Devan Dubnyk: 4-9-0, 3.10 GAA, .900 SV%
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