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Oilers get reinforcements, place Belanger on IR

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- The Edmonton Oilers will shake up their lineup prior to facing the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night at United Center, during a second trip to the Windy City on this season-long nine-game road trip.

Oilers forwards Shawn Horcoff (hand) and Teemu Hartikainen (shoulder) will both come off injured reserve to face Chicago (21-1-3), while center Eric Belanger is headed to IR because of a groin injury. Belanger was injured on the last shift of Edmonton's previous game, a 6-0 loss on Friday night in Nashville.

"He's going to be going home [Sunday] night," Edmonton coach Ralph Krueger told reporters at the team's hotel on Sunday afternoon. "It's definitely an injury in the groin area that needs some care and some time. [He] felt a little bit of a pop in the groin area and we've done our best here the last couple of days, but we realize this is an injury that needs deeper care. That's why he's going home [Sunday night], so he can get right into treatment in Edmonton. The earliest he could play would be next Sunday."

Krueger said Ales Hemsky must pass a medical test two hours prior to the 7 p.m. ET opening puck drop -- which he's expected to pass -- while defenseman Theo Peckham will be scratched for Corey Potter. Krueger will also make a game-time decision following warm-ups on which one of forwards Lennart Petrell or Ryan Jones will suit up for the game.

Krueger, who plans to mix up the defense pairings and forward groups, also said injured defenseman Mark Fistric (elbow) is with the team but won't come off IR for this game. Edmonton, which is winless in five straight games, will end it lengthy road trip on Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche.

"We seem to be a little bit fragile right now," said Horcoff, who missed 15 games with a hand issue that might still limit his ability to take faceoffs on Sunday night. "We're in a tough spot mentally, but we're still in it here. We had a team meeting [Saturday], a players' meeting, and we addressed a couple of those issues."

One of the issues was just keeping the team's spirits up despite being winless in eight of the previous 10 games.

"We still have an opportunity here, if we can win the last couple games, to salvage a decent trip and still give us a good chance going forward," Horcoff said. "We have lots of games at home the rest of the season and there's still half of it left, so it's not over for us yet. There is still [a lot] of belief here that if we can put a run together, we can still give ourselves a chance."

Devan Dubnyk, pulled from the Nashville game after just one period while trailing just 2-0, will get the start in net. Krueger said the decision was more about facing Chicago as the third of three games in four days.

"Devan being pulled the other night was completely and totally an energy issue," Krueger said. "It was partially just taking a shot at mixing up the group, but the other side was getting Devan ready for the Chicago game. I was not quitting on the Nashville game at all, but at the same time -- Devan had hit a wall [in] back to back [games] and there was a certain fatigue there."

Krueger hopes that getting some fresh legs into the lineup on Sunday can help the Oilers mentally and physically against the Blackhawks -- who just dropped their first game in regulation this past Friday night in Colorado.

"When you look at [it] back-to-back is one thing, but the last time we went through three [games] in four [days], it was the third game that actually was the toughest of them all," Krrueger said. "We're very pleased to inject new personnel into the lineup. We should have enough energy here to have a really good battle."

The Blackhawks did not hold a morning skate and Joel Quenneville will meet with reporters on Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m. ET, when he will most likely announce his starting goalie and any lineup changes.

Here is how the Blackhawks and Oilers might lineup on Sunday night:


Teemu HartikainenShawn HorcoffJordan Eberle

Taylor HallRyan Nugent-HopkinsNail Yakupov

Magnus PaajarviSam GagnerAles Hemsky

Ryan JonesRyan SmytheMike Brown

Ladislav SmidJustin Schultz

Ryan WhitneyJeff Petry

Nick SchultzCorey Potter

Devan Dubnyk

Yann Danis

Scratched: Ben Eager, Lennart Petrell, Theo Peckham

Injured: Anton Lander (IR, foot, week-to-week), Andy Sutton (knee, out indefinitely), Nikolai Khabibulin (IR, groin, out indefinitely), Mark Fistric (IR, elbow, day-to-day), Eric Belanger (IR, groin, week-to-week)


Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa

Bryan BickellDave BollandPatrick Kane

Daniel CarcilloAndrew ShawViktor Stalberg

Jamal MayersMarcus KrugerMichael Frolik

Duncan KeithBrent Seabrook

Niklas HjalmarssonJohnny Oduya

Nick LeddyMichal Rozsival

Ray Emery

Corey Crawford

Scratched: Sheldon Brookbank, Brandon Bollig, Steve Montador

Injured: Patrick Sharp (IR, upper body, out 3-4 weeks), Rostislav Olesz (IR, knee, out indefinitely)

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