EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Oilers feel their game has improved over the past couple of weeks.
On Monday night, the Oilers should get a good gauge on how far they've come, hosting the Chicago Blackhawks at Rexall Place.
The Oilers have won three consecutive games entering their matchup against the Blackhawks, but know the defending Stanley Cup champions present a unique challenge.
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"The great thing about today is that I feel our players are looking forward to this game," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "We just played these guys a few weeks ago and we were not great in the first period, I thought we were playing shy and safe.
"But in the second and third period, I thought we got going and matched them. I think we've taken a little bit of a step forward, and it's always a good measuring stick when you have the Stanley Cup champions coming in. The good thing about this morning is that I sensed our guys were excited about tonight, they want to play, they want to play hard and they want to try to send a message."
Traditionally, the Oilers have stood up well to the Blackhawks, despite the two teams being on opposite ends of the NHL standings.
The Oilers beat the Blackhawks in one of their three meetings last season and forced another game into overtime.
In the team's first meeting this season, the Blackhawks pulled out a 5-4 victory at the United Center.
"We know Chicago is a great team, they're the Cup champs," Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. "I thought we played them really well in Chicago, we just didn't come out of there with the two points. We want to play tonight the same way we did in the second and third period that day. Hopefully we have a better result."
The Blackhawks won the last game between the teams at Rexall Place on April 24, 2013, but have otherwise had their struggles in Edmonton.
They lost 8-4 and 9-2 in their two trips to Edmonton during the 2011-2012 season, a year the Oilers finished 29th in the overall League standings.
"Coming into this building is kind of scary, I know that they've had some success against us in here," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "They're playing well right now. They're a dangerous team, they're an attacking team and they're dangerous off the rush.
"We have to be a little more patient with these guys, otherwise we get in a track meet and it seems like they're better at it than we are. So we have to be smart and we have to be respectful of their skill and their speed and their quickness on the attack."
The Blackhawks will be without right wing Marian Hossa, who returned to Chicago to deal with a family matter. He's expected to rejoin the team on the road Wednesday against the Calgary Flames.
Forward Michal Handzus makes his return to the Blackhawks' lineup Monday, having missed the previous 14 games with an upper-body injury.
"It's nice to get him back," Quenneville said. "We might play him on the wing and a little bit at center as well. He was important last year at the end and it's nice to see him return."
Corey Crawford will get the start in goal for the Blackhawks.
The Oilers' lineup is the same as the one that earned wins over the Flames, Columbus Blue Jackets and Florida Panthers.
Devan Dubnyk, voted third star of the week by the NHL on Monday, makes his 10th consecutive start for the Oilers.
Here are the projected lineups for the Blackhawks and Oilers on Monday:
Patrick Sharp – Jonathan Toews – Brandon Saad
Michal Handzus – Brandon Pirri – Patrick Kane
Jeremy Morin – Andrew Shaw – Kris Versteeg
Brandon Bollig – Marcus Kruger – Ben Smith
Duncan Keith – Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya – Niklas Hjalmarsson
Nick Leddy – Michal Rozsival
Scratched: Marian Hossa
Injured: Bryan Bickell (knee), Michael Kostka (lower body), Nikolai Khabibulin (lower body)
Taylor Hall – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle
Nail Yakupov – Sam Gagner – Ales Hemsky
David Perron – Boyd Gordon – Ryan Smyth
Jesse Joensuu – Will Acton – Luke Gazdic
Andrew Ference – Jeff Petry
Anton Belov – Justin Schultz
Nick Schultz – Corey Potter
Scratched: Mark Arcobello, Ryan Jones
Injured: Philip Larsen (back), Tyler Pitlick (knee), Richard Bachman (lower body)