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Oilers-Blackhawks Preview @NHL
Oilers-Blackhawks Preview

GAME: Edmonton Oilers (9-8-1) at Chicago Blackhawks (6-11-0).

TIME: Sunday, 7 p.m. EST.

After the lockout ended, the Chicago Blackhawks signed a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender to shore up a defense that allowed a Western Conference-worst 259 goals in 2003-04.

It has not worked so far.

The Blackhawks will likely look to Nikolai Khabibulin to end a five-game winless streak against the Edmonton Oilers when the teams meet for the first time this season at the United Center.

In August, Chicago signed Khabibulin from the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, giving him a four-year $28-million deal after he posted a 16-7 playoff record, including five shutouts.

Six weeks into this season, however, Khabibulin has been a disappointment.

He entered the season with 209 career wins, a 2.61 goals-against average and 35 shutouts. In 15 games with the Blackhawks, Khabibulin is 5-10-0 with a 3.71 GAA and no shutouts.

Chicago has already allowed 68 goals, and is on pace to give up 328, the most since allowing 335 during the 1988-89 season.

The Blackhawks have not defeated the Oilers since a 3-0 win on Feb. 8, 2003, in Edmonton. Overall, Chicago is 3-10-3-1 in its last 17 matchups with Edmonton.

The Blackhawks are coming off a 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Friday. Khabibulin finished with 23 saves and Brent Seabrook and Mikael Holmqvist scored for Chicago, which went 0-for-6 on the power play.

"I don't think you can fault him on any of the goals," first-year Blackhawks coach Trent Yawney said. "I thought we played a solid game and didn't get the results again."

Edmonton continued its season-high seven-game road trip with a 3-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday. Ryan Smyth set up all three goals and Jussi Markkanen made 29 saves as the Oilers improved to 3-2 on the trip.

"Once we get in a rhythm, when everyone is on, we're a tough team to beat," said Jason Smith, who also had a goal.

Ryan Smyth has four goals and four assists on the trip, which ends Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche. He has a goal and four assists in a three-game points streak against Chicago.

STANDINGS (through Nov. 12): Oilers - 19 points, 4th place, 3 PB, Northwest Division. Blackhawks - 12 points, 3rd place, 19 PB, Central Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Oilers - Raffi Torres, 9 goals; Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky, 12 assists; Smyth and Shawn Horcoff, 16 points; Ethan Moreau, 41 PIM. Blackhawks - Pavel Vorobiev, 6 goals and 15 points; Vorobiev and Tyler Arnason, 9 assists; Matthew Barnaby, 47 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 12): Oilers - Power play: 17.4 percent (19 for 109), tied for 17th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.3 percent (93 for 113), 13th. Blackhawks - Power play: 13.6 percent (16 for 117), 25th. Penalty killing: 79.2 percent (111 for 140), 25th.

GOALTENDERS: Oilers - Markkanen (8-7-1, 0 SO, 2.74 GAA); Mike Morrison (0-0-0, 0, 0.00). Blackhawks - Khabibulin (5-10-0, 0, 3.71); Craig Anderson (1-1-0, 0, 5.12).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Oilers, 4-0.

LAST MEETING: March 7, 2004, Oilers, 4-3. At Chicago, Eric Brewer scored twice and Jarret Stoll netted the game-winner 44 seconds into overtime as Edmonton completed a season-series sweep.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Oilers - 6-6-0 on the road; Blackhawks - 3-4-0 at home.

Associated Press
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