OILERS (3-6-2) at BLACKHAWKS (8-7-1)
TV: SNET-EDM (HD), WGN (HD)
Edmonton 2-6-2; Chicago 5-5-0
Second of four meetings this season -- the Oilers are paying their second visit to the United Center in a 10-day span and their first trip in was a productive one, as they claimed a 7-4 win behind a pair of goals from Sam Gagner
. Top pick Taylor Hall
and fellow rookie Jordan Eberle
each had a goal and an assist.
Edmonton, with eight points, is one of only two teams left in the NHL not to have reached double digits for the season -- New Jersey, with nine points, is the other. However, both those teams have earned wins at the United Center in the last two weeks, which should serve as a reminder to the Blackhawks that as defending Stanley Cup champions, they have giant targets on their backs. Beating Chicago is a big deal in general, but winning in the Madhouse on Madison -- where the Hawks are a mediocre 4-5-0 -- is a special feather in any opponent's cap.
Instead of being the springboard toward a much-needed winning streak, Edmonton's win in Chicago has merely represented the lone bright spot in a 1-6-2 stretch since the Oilers started the season with back-to-back victories. They returned home after beating the Blackhawks and lost consecutive games to the Canucks and Red Wings at Rexall Place. Now they hit the road for five in a row, a possible make-or-break stretch if they want to avoid falling farther behind in the Western Conference race.
"It's going to be a good test for us," Eberle said. "We're playing some good hockey teams and we need to obviously try and play our game. We've had one game of success in Chicago, and I think that's obviously going to help us. We need to go in with the expectation of doing well and coming together."
The potential for distractions to abound was present in Atlanta on Friday night, as Chicago faced off against several members of its 2010 championship team who were jettisoned over the summer due to salary-cap restrictions. Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Ben Eager
each recorded an assist against their former teammates, but the Blackhawks maintained their focus and edged the Thrashers 5-4 when Viktor Stalberg
scored in the fifth round of the shootout.
"We want to start climbing now and get out of the hole we dug for ourselves," said captain Jonathan Toews
, who combined with Patrick Kane
to score all four of Chicago's goals in regulation. "It's all about just improving our game every game and not taking steps back the way we have lately."
Hall has 3 goals in the Oilers' last four games after going without one in his first seven NHL contests. … Kane has 4 goals and 5 assists in the last seven games for the Blackhawks.
Edmonton defenseman Theo Peckham
is day-to-day with flu-like symptoms, while forwards Jean-Francois Jacques (back surgery) and Steve MacIntyre (back) are also out. … Chicago forward Marian Hossa
is sidelined with a shoulder injury and forward Dave Bolland
(ribs) is on injured reserve.
Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin
is 13-7-0 with one tie and a 2.33 goals-against average career against the Blackhawks, his team from 2005-09. … Patrick Sharp
had 1 goal and 2 assists and Duncan Keith
had 3 assists for the Hawks in the first meeting between these teams.
Neither team is content with its current place in the standings -- Chicago carries the expectations of the defending Cup champs, while Edmonton wants to show improvement despite the growing pains that are inevitable with such a young roster.
"I don't think you can dwell on the losses too long," veteran defenseman Jim Vandermeer said. "I think you take the good things out of your game and try to apply them to the next game. That's definitely what we'll try to do (Sunday)."