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Blackhawks return home to face Oilers

by Sean McCullen

OILERS (15-27-5) at BLACKHAWKS (29-8-10)


Last 10: Edmonton 4-4-2; Chicago 4-1-5

Season series: The Chicago Blackhawks won the first two games against the Edmonton Oilers, 5-4 at United Center on Nov. 10 and 5-1 at Rexall Place on Nov. 25.

Big story: Chicago will try to complete a sweep of the season series against Edmonton, but in order to do so, the Blackhawks are going to have to turn things around following a stretch in which they have won twice in seven games (2-1-4).

The Oilers have one win against Chicago in the past five games (1-3-1).

Team Scope:

Oilers: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had two goals, including the game-winner in overtime, to lead Edmonton to a 4-3 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday.

Coach Dallas Eakins matched his 20-year-old center against Sidney Crosby for much of the game.

"I thought he was motivated by it and he was able to contend with Sidney," Eakins said of Nugent-Hopkins, who also had an assist. "The size differential isn't as harsh on him, which allows him to play with him. I thought Nuge did an excellent job, as did his line and the [defensive] pairings that were out there against him."

Nugent-Hopkins has two points (one goal) and is minus-2 in two games against the Blackhawks this season. He has 13 goals and 22 assists overall.

Blackhawks: It bodes well for struggling Chicago that it will be playing the second game of a back-to-back set when it welcomes Edmonton to United Center. The Blackhawks have not lost in regulation in the second game (8-0-3) when playing on consecutive days, and they are 6-0-2 at home in that situation, including the Nov. 10 win against the Oilers.

Chicago has lost two straight and four of five.

"You have stretches (where you struggle to score). I'm sure we can say that we had a stretch where everything was going in for us, and we were getting the favorable bounces or some funny ones went in," coach Joel Quenneville said Saturday night after a 2-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. "But certainly we're playing the right way, and you know it just seems like the last few games we're a little loose in our game and support -- puck support, puck presence, puck patience and puck recognition -- is not great.

"We've got a game [Sunday], we've got a couple of games in the next three days, so let's get excited about what's going to happen next."

Backup Antti Raanta could be in goal Sunday for Chicago after Corey Crawford, who has started the past three games, took the loss in Montreal.

Andrew Shaw scored twice in the Blackhawks' 5-1 win against Edmonton on Nov. 25.

The Blackhawks reclaimed first place from the St. Louis Blues by earning a point Saturday, but they've played three more games than their longtime division rivals.

Who's hot: Oilers right wing Nail Yakupov has three goals in five games since Eakins made him a healthy scratch Dec. 31 against the Phoenix Coyotes. Right wing Jordan Eberle has two goals and three assists his past four games. … Chicago forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp extended their point streaks to five games when they assisted on Marian Hossa's goal against Montreal. During the streaks, Toews has one goal and five assists; Sharp has three goals and four assists.

Injury report: Oilers defensemen Corey Potter (groin) and Philip Larsen (illness) are on injured reserve. Potter, who has missed seven games, is considered day-to-day. … Blackhawks goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin (rotator cuff) is out.

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