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Dubnyk starting for Oilers, Blackhawks after sweep

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- Ilya Bryzgalov was supposed to start Sunday night at United Center against the Chicago Blackhawks, but Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins decided to scrap that plan.

Eakins said after his team's morning skate Sunday that Devan Dubnyk will get the nod after picking up a 4-3 win in overtime against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday at Rexall Place.

The Blackhawks (29-8-10) and Oilers (15-27-5) will conclude their season series with Chicago looking for a sweep after winning by scores of 5-4 and 5-1 in the first two games.

"We're going to go back with Devan," Eakins said. "As I've said before, your plans with goalies ... I shake my head at myself. Why even do it? It always changes. We are going to go back with Devan. We thought he played well and thought the team played well in front of him."

It will be the first consecutive starts for Dubnyk since Dec. 12-13 against the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks, two defeats. Dubnyk is 2-5-0 with a 4.16 goals-against average and .888 save percentage in nine career games against the Blackhawks, but hopes to better those numbers Sunday.

"We've played these guys lots," Dubnyk told the Oilers website. "We've had some success against them in years past, but not this year. We're going to have to find a way to do the things that we were doing right against Pittsburgh against just as good of an opponent. They've got a lot of firepower and we need to limit our turnovers. That can get you in trouble against these guys pretty fast."

Chicago's firepower, however, is missing of late.

Outside of a 5-3 victory Jan.3 at the New Jersey Devils, the Blackhawks haven't scored more than two goals in their past six games, posting a pedestrian 2-1-3 mark in that span.

"We're not generating as much as we did over a long stretch of games and I think teams have gone into it looking to try to shut you down," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I think we've got to be willing to play those type of games. We've got to be better in the puck areas and I think that's probably the area we're not as effective as we were for most of the year."

They also squandered an impressive 36-save performance from goalie Corey Crawford on Saturday in a 2-1 overtime loss at the Montreal Canadiens. Crawford will not start against the Oilers, though.

Rookie Antti Raanta will start, giving Crawford a night off after starting three straight games.

"We've still got a lot of hockey games and in the back-to-back games it's a perfect time to put Antti in," Quenneville said. "But we love the way he played. He's come back with three excellent games off his injury."

Quenneville shook up his line combinations heading into the game against Montreal and did so again during the game. Bryan Bickell started at left wing on the second line with right wing Patrick Kane and center Marcus Kruger, attempting to get the power forward going, but he finished shifting on the left side of the fourth line.

Bickell was on the ice for the first of Andrei Markov's two goals and finished with a minus-1 rating for the fifth straight game. Bickell, who has a minus-6 rating for the season, has also finished with a minus-1 rating in seven of his past eight games since missing 14 contests because of a knee injury.

The Blackhawks are still searching for a way to build Bickell's confidence back up, preferably to the point it was during last season's championship run through the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"I think with him it's a big factor," Quenneville said. "We're trying to get him there, where he's comfortable with the puck, he's comfortable with his positioning and his thought process as well. He's a very important guy to our team and you use him in a lot of different ways and he brings an element that you need. It's still a work in progress and we'll keep working on it."

The point the Blackhawks earned moved them ahead of the St. Louis Blues (67 points) for first place in the Central Division, but the Blues have three games in hand heading into action Sunday.

Chicago (68 points) now trails the Anaheim Ducks (73 points) by five points for the top spot in the Western Conference and NHL standings.

Here are the projected lineups for Sunday:


Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Sam Gagner

Nail Yakupov - Mark Arcobello - Jordan Eberle

David Perron - Boyd Gordon - Ales Hemsky

Luke Gazdic - Ryan Smyth - Ryan Jones

Andrew Ference - Justin Schultz

Jeff Petry - Martin Marincin

Anton Belov - Nick Schultz

Devan Dubnyk

Ilya Bryzgalov

Scratched: Jesse Joensuu

Injured: Corey Potter (groin), Philip Larsen (illness)


Patrick Sharp - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Brandon Saad - Marcus Kruger - Patrick Kane

Brandon Bollig - Andrew Shaw - Kris Versteeg

Bryan Bickell - Michal Handzus - Ben Smith

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Nick Leddy - Sheldon Brookbank

Antti Raanta

Corey Crawford

Scratched: Michal Rozsival, Michael Kostka

Injured: Nikolai Khabibulin (long-term injured reserve, rotator cuff surgery)

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