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Oilers try to halt Blackhawks' conquering of Canada

by David Kalan /

BLACKHAWKS (13-5-2) at OILERS (9-10-3)

Last 10 -- Chicago 7-2-1; Edmonton 3-5-2

Season series --
The Hawks have a 1-0 lead in the season series after holding off the Oilers, 4-3, on Oct. 14 at the United Center.

Big Story -- After trouncing the Flames in the first stop on their annual circus trip, the Hawks will look to extend a five-game winning streak against the struggling Oilers, who have dropped six of eight games this month.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks -- After sweeping a homestand, Chicago started its annual circus trip Thursday looking to get the road monkey off its back. The Hawks hadn't won away from the United Center in more than a month, but they got off the schneid in a big way against Calgary, taking down the team they ousted from the playoffs a year ago in a stunning 7-1 rout. Chicago snapped a 1-1 tie in the second period, blitzing the Flames with five goals and silencing the home crowd.

The Hawks appear to have Calgary's number, having won the last six regular season games between the two, but if Thursday's resounding victory is a sign that Chicago is going to play as well on the road as it does at home, the Hawks could be ready to make a major move in the standings. As if things weren't good enough in the Windy City, the rich will get richer soon. Major offseason acquisition Marian Hossa is expected to make his Hawks debut at some point during the current road stretch.

Oilers -- Times have been tough for Edmonton, which dropped the final four games of a five-game road trip this month before returning home. The Oilers snapped out of their funk and woke up offensively Wednesday with six goals in a big victory over Northwest Division-leading Colorado.

Edmonton's win over the Avs was a good sign not merely because of the offense, but because the Oilers trailed by two goals midway through the second period and managed to rally. As Edmonton battles through a number of injuries that resiliency will come in handy, but unfortunately for the Rexall Place faithful the task won't get much easier. Each of the Oilers' opponents for the rest of the homestand currently sits in the top eight in the West.

Who's Hot -- The better question to ask of the Blackhawks might be who isn't hot. Chicago has won seven straight with Troy Brouwer, who has six points in five games, and Duncan Keith, 10 in his last six, leading the way. For Edmonton, Shawn Horcoff has a three-game point streak, while Ales Hemsky has at least one point in five straight.

Injury Report -- Hossa's debut likely won't come against the Oilers, but even without him and Dave Bolland, who is out 3-4 months after back surgery, Chicago is in better shape than Edmonton. The battered Oilers are without Denis Grebeshkov, Fernando Pisani and Mike Comrie, while Ethan Moreau, Robert Nilsson and Taylor Chorney are all listed as questionable for Saturday.

Stat Pack --
If the Oilers think their homestand will erase the memories of their recent road trip, they have good cause to believe it will. Edmonton is averaging 3.36 goals per game at home this year. Away from the comfort of Rexall Place the Oil's output drops to 2.27.

Puck Drop --
The Hawks' record against Edmonton may not be as reputed as their mark against the Oil's rivals from Alberta, but it is just as impressive. Chicago is 5-1-3 against the Oilers over the past three seasons, including two straight wins in Edmonton. As the Hawks look to build a cushion in the Central, the situation is more urgent for the Oilers, who sit outside the final playoff spot. With plenty of season left, a win over Chicago and a strong homestand could keep the beat-up Oilers afloat until the cavalry returns.

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