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Oilers try to break slide against Blackhawks

by John Kreiser

BLACKHAWKS (12-5-3) at OILERS (9-7-2)


Last 10: Chicago 6-3-1; Edmonton 5-5-0

Season Series: The Hawks and Oilers are meeting for the second time in seven days. Chicago whipped Edmonton 6-3 on Sunday in the Blackhawks' last game before their six-game road trip and the Oilers' finale of a six-game swing.The Hawks have won their last six in Edmonton, outscoring the home team 30-8.

Big Story: The Hawks' four-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt in Calgary on Friday when the Flames scored twice in 17 seconds early in the second period on the way to a 5-2 win. The Oilers' struggled at the end of their road trip, and things didn't get any worse in their first game back -- Ottawa came into Rexall Place on Thursday and left with an easy 5-2 victory, handing the Oilers their fourth consecutive loss.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks: After blitzing the Canucks 5-1 in Vancouver on Tuesday, the Hawks didn't have it in Calgary, where the Flames reached the five-goal mark for the first time this season. Captain Jonathan Toews is glad to get a chance to put the game in the rear-view mirror quickly.

"We've said it before that you're not going to play your best game every night," Toews said. "We've been flying around and everything's falling for you. You're going to run into a team that's ticked off and eager to get better like Calgary and things won't be easy for you. We made it easy for them with the turnovers and little mistakes we made."

Oilers: It's time to see what the Oilers are made of. After a hot start that had them at the top of the Northwest Division, the Oilers have hit the skids offensively and defensively during their four-game losing streak.

It's for times like these that GM Steve Tambellini brought back forwards Ryan Smyth and Eric Belanger, who are being counted on as much for their leadership skills with one of the NHL's youngest teams as their on-ice play.

"I'm just happy to be here, to be around the speed at which these young guys play and practice. I'm happy to lend some of my experience," Smyth told the Oilers' website after Friday's practice.

Who's Hot: Hawks captain Jonathan Toews assisted on both goals Friday and has five goals and 10 points in Chicago's last five games. Marian Hossa had one of the goals and has nine points during a five-game scoring streak. Patrick Kane has six points in five games.

Injury Report: Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook has missed two games since going down with a lower-body injury against the Oilers on Sunday. … Edmonton lost defensemen Andy Sutton (groin) and Corey Potter (ankle) on Thursday; neither is likely to dress against the Hawks, depleting an already-thin blue line that is without Cam Barker (broken ankle) and Ryan Whitney (knee)

Stat Pack: The Hawks are 10-0-2 when scoring at least three goals.. … The Oilers have allowed 45 goals this season, down from 74 at the same point last season. They are allowing 28.6 shots per game, down more than three per game from last season's average of 31.7.

Puck Drop: Despite the recent slump, the Oilers are still markedly improved from the same point a year ago. With 20 points, they are eight points better than they were this time last year -- and their 9-7-2 mark looks a lot better than the 4-10-4 record they owned a year ago.

"The frustrating part for us now is now when we lose, we know we probably shouldn't have," coach Tom Renney said Friday. "We're beating ourselves."

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