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Trade deadline hovers over Hawks

by John Kreiser

OILERS (19-37-6) at BLACKHAWKS (41-16-5)

Last 10 -- Edmonton 3-7-0; Chicago 6-3-1

Season series -- The Hawks have won all three meetings this season. The Oilers are coming to the United Center for the first time since a 4-3 loss on Oct. 14. The Hawks won 5-3 and 4-2 in their two visits to Edmonton.

Big story -- Who will be in goal for Chicago? Will it be Antti Niemi, who was yanked after allowing three goals in Tuesday night's 5-3 loss to the Islanders? Will it be Cristobal Huet, who relieved him, allowed two more and got the loss? Or will GM Stan Bowman pull the trigger on a trade to bring in someone else? That question overshadows what, on paper, should be an easy win for the Hawks against the NHL's last-place team.

Team Scope:

Oilers -- If the Oilers didn't have bad luck, they'd have no luck at all. They come to Chicago after a 4-3 loss at Nashville on Tuesday that saw the game-winning goal go into the net off Edmonton defenseman Jason Strudwick. That came after Denis Grebeshkov, the defenseman they traded to Nashville on Monday, scored against them the next night.

"We've seen those a lot this year. We're not handling the front of the net," coach Pat Quinn said of the goal that was credited to former Oiler Jason Arnott after hitting Strudwick. "We don't get those kinds of goals at the other end. We're too busy with the drop passes and the lateral plays, all that pretty stuff that doesn't end up in the net."

Blackhawks -- The Hawks start a four-game homestand after one of their most painful losses of the season. They outshot the Islanders 44-23 but were beaten 5-3 by a team that has struggled to score all season. Neither Niemi nor Huet looked sharp -- but they didn't get a lot of help from their teammates, four of whom had played in Sunday's Olympic gold-medal game.

"When we got in trouble, we were caught flat-footed and we let the other team dictate the play," defenseman Duncan Keith said.

Who's hot -- Chicago captain Jonathan Toews, named the top forward at the Winter Olympics, has been dynamite against the Oilers, scoring 3 goals and setting up 3 others. Patrick Kane, who opposed Toews in the Olympics while playing for Team USA, had a goal and set up the other two on Long Island.

Injury report -- Edmonton forwards Jean-Francois Jacques (back), Sam Gagner (knee) and Ethan Moreau (neck) are day-to-day. Defenseman Ladislav Smid is out with a bulging disc in his neck. Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (back), defenseman Sheldon Souray (hand) and forwards Ales Hemsky (shoulder) and Ryan Stone (knee) are on IR. … Blackhawks forward Adam Burish is close to returning from a torn ACL suffered last September, but he won't play. Ben Eager (lower body), John Madden (leg) and Brent Sopel (lower body) all returned on Tuesday.

Stat pack -- Edmonton has been outscored 115-57 in its last 30 games overall, and 51-17 in its last 13 away from home.

Puck drop -- Hawks fans will be on pins and needles waiting to see what Bowman does about his goaltending situation. But no matter who's in goal, this is one the Hawks figure to win comfortably.

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