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MORNING SKATE REPORT: Oilers at Blackhawks

The Oilers open a three-game road trip tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks

by Chris Wescott & Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com

The Oilers visit the United Center for a meeting with the Chicago Blackhawks as they attempt to end their current four-game slide.

You can watch the game on Sportsnet ONE across Canada or listen via 630 CHED and the Oilers Radio Network.

Video: OILERS TODAY | @ Blackhawks Pre-Game

 

INSIDE THE OILERS

Lineup notes from Chicago's morning skate and more in our Inside the Oilers Blog.

>> READ MORE IN THE INSIDE THE OILERS BLOG

PRE-GAME REPORT

CHICAGO, IL - The Oilers are hoping stepping away from home for a bit will help hit the reset button, allowing them to secure a win for the first time since the season opener on October 4.

"It's nice to get away for a little bit," said Oilers forward Mark Letestu. "It's kind of an artificial way to reset things, get in a different situation, and a different atmosphere. Guys came to the rink ready to work today, nobody is down so it's a big challenge."

Edmonton has lost four straight, coming off a 5-3 decision to Carolina on Tuesday night. Edmonton peppered the Hurricanes with 51 shots in that loss and saw some players turn a corner and get on the score sheet. But at the end of the day, wins are the results that matter.

The Oilers get a Blackhawks team that's coming off a 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues on the road last night.

"They're coming off a tough game last night so they're going to be a hungry team and our team has to get better to the point where we're winning these games," said Letestu.

"This is always a tough building to play in, regardless of what your record is or what type of start you've had," said Head Coach Todd McLellan. "I think our group will be excited about playing here, the crowd is always energized, their team always plays well here so it's a good opportunity for us to get going in the right direction and do things right for 60 minutes.

REINFORCEMENTS GETTING CLOSER

It was a positive sight in Chicago this morning to see both Drake Caggiula (undisclosed) and Leon Draisaitl (eye/concussion symptoms) take the ice with the team. They did not, however, take line rushes, nor will they play tonight versus the Blackhawks.

Even still, they're nearing a return which is a good sign for this trip.

"We're not relying on those guys to come back," said Letestu. "We've got to figure out that some guys need to step up here, but when your group is together and whole again, it feels right. Having those guys out there again, sharing some laughs, working hard, it certainly delivers a bit of a boost."

TALBOT BACK IN

After a one-game break from his duties as the team's starter, Cam Talbot is back in between the pipes tonight. In four games this season, Talbot has a 3.96 goals-against average and .880 save percentage. His numbers this season don't measure up to last year's stellar campaign, but the club is confident in the netminder and his ability to bounce back with a big game.

"I do believe he'll get back to where he's been at, but he needs help," said McLellan. "Some of the goals, even the other night with (Laurent Brossoit), the layups back door or the breakaways, those are tough situations for a goaltender to save. Yeah, we need an extra save every now and then, but the earned goal against is one we have to live with but a gift one from the goaltender on out is something we can't give up."

QUICK HITS: Matt Benning (illness) will not play tonight, but likely will return to the lineup against Philadelphia… Former junior teammates face off tonight with Edmonton's Connor McDavid and Chicago's Alex DeBrincat. The two played together with the OHL's Erie Otters in 2014-15. McDavid had 120 points that season, while DeBrincat had 104… Brandon Saad has been clutch this season for Chicago, tallying all of the game-winning goals in each of the team's four wins… Former Oilers defenceman Jordan Oesterle will be making his season debut for Chicago tonight… Anton Forsberg gets the nod between the pipes for the Blackhawks.

-- Chris Wescott, EdmontonOilers.com

PREVIEW

OILERS (1-4-0) at BLACKHAWKS (4-2-1)

TV: 6:30 p.m. MDT; Televised on Sportsnet ONE

Head-to-Head:

This is the first of three meetings between the Oilers and Blackhawks. The teams will link up again on Friday, December 29, and then will conclude their season series on Saturday, January 7, in Chicago.

Oilers Team Scope:

The Oilers are on a four-game losing streak, dropping decisions to the Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets, Ottawa Senators and Carolina Hurricanes. After defeating the Calgary Flames 3-0 in their home-opener, Edmonton has been outscored 19-8 combined in their subsequent outings. 

The Oilers have been missing forwards Leon Draisaitl and Drake Caggiula. On the back end, the squad has been without the presence of Matt Benning, who was scratched against the Ottawa Senators and then ruled out due to illness when the Carolina Hurricanes visited Rogers Place. All three players have joined the team on their three-game road swing and could enter the lineup later in the week, as per Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan.

Blackhawks Team Scope:

The Blackhawks opened the 2017-18 campaign with a 10-1 drubbing of the Pittsburgh Penguins then followed that up with a 5-1 rout over the Columbus Blue Jackets. Chicago dropped games to the Toronto Maple Leafs (4-3 OT) and Minnesota Wild (5-2) and also had wins over Montreal and Nashville. 

Last night, the 'Hawks fell 5-2 in St. Louis. 

Ryan Hartman is off to a surprisingly good start, leading the Blackhawks in scoring with nine points through seven games (3 goals, 6 assists). Hartman had 19 goals and 31 points last season, his rookie campaign. 

Brandon Saad has had a good return to Chicago after being reacquired from Columbus this past offseason. He has six goals in seven games to lead the club in that category. 

By the Numbers:

Oilers Captain Connor McDavid continues leading the team in scoring with six points (3-3-6) in five games this season. Oscar Klefbom leads the Oilers in time on ice, averaging 22:38 minutes per night, edging out McDavid by one second.

Patrick Kane has 13 goals and 46 points in 34 career games against the Oilers. Jonathan Toews has 17 goals and 36 points in 34 games versus Edmonton in his career.

Injury Report:

OILERS - Andrej Sekera (knee) is out; Drake Caggiula (undisclosed) is out; Leon Draisaitl (eye/concussion-like symptoms) is out. Matt Benning (illness) is to be determined.

BLACKHAWKS - Marian Hossa (skin infection) is out; Michal Rozsival (upper-body) is out; Jordin Tootoo (upper-body) is out.

-- Paul Gazzola, EdmontonOilers.com

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