CHICAGO, IL - The Oilers are coming off a self-described “letdown” game, in which they lost to the Los Angeles Kings, 5-2. Friday’s matchup doesn’t get any easier, with the Oilers beginning a five-game road trip in Chicago against the Blackhawks.
“We have to get back to the things we were doing before that gave us a chance to win,” Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson said. “Last game was a game I think surprised many of us. But the players all understand that, the players realize that and they want to come out and have a strong game tonight.”
There are no changes to the Oilers lineup.
14 consecutive games between these two teams have featured five or more goals, so that means the Oilers offence will need to pick it up. Edmonton has failed to score more than two goals in each of their last five games. This comes after averaging over three goals per game in their previous five.
The key to getting that offence to turn around is execution. The Oilers hope to get more pucks to the net than they have in recent games.
“When we’re having success, we’re having guys go to the net,” Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. “Get a ton of pucks on net, I think. A good goal for us is to get 30 shots per night. It doesn’t always mean you’re going to score goals, but a lot of times it means you’re going to get second and third opportunities and that’s what teams lately have been able to do against us.”
Chicago is the shining example of that, leading the league with 34.2 shots on goal per game this season.
“They’re a dangerous team,” Oilers winger Teddy Purcell said. “I think last game we got away from our execution. If you don’t execute against a team like this and keep things simple, they can burn you in a hurry. I think we’re going to really try to keep things simple and get pucks deep and limit our turnovers, because if you do (turn it over) they can burn you in a hurry.”
The United Center in Chicago is a notoriously loud and energetic building, one of the best in the league. The Oilers roster has several young players and even callups from Oklahoma City who may not have seen or played a game here yet.
It’s up to the veteran players to make sure the younger ones and the new faces soak it all in, but also harness that energy to play a good road game.
“I think you just tell them to enjoy it,” Purcell said. “It starts from the National Anthem, just have fun. It’s one of the top buildings in the league with its atmosphere and just the environment that it comes with. Enjoy it early and then just kind of settle into your game and try to get off to a good start.”
Being able to feed off the energy is key to playing a good road game, especially against one of the better teams in the league.
“It’s intimidating in that it’s a super loud rink to play in. But at the same time, it’s a fun rink to play in because of how loud it is,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “It’s a great atmosphere. I think you can go one of two ways: you can shy off a little bit or take some energy from the building. I think that’s what we’ve got to do and I think we’ve done it a few times coming in here and we seem to play pretty well against these guys for the most part so we’ve got to find a way to do it in their own building.”
“You can feed off it for sure,” Purcell said. “These guys are a good team so it’s a good measuring stick for us and we’ve played a lot of good teams the last couple of games. It’s always exciting when you’re playing a team that’s so good in the league and has had so much success. We have to be ready from the start.”
QUICK NOTES: Chicago has earned points in 10 of their last 13 games. Chicago is 22-2-0 when leading after the first period and 21-0-0 when leading after the second. The Blackhawks have the league’s third-best penalty kill at 85.9%. The last time the Oilers won in Chicago was a 6-5 decision on March 10, 2013. Nail Yakupov posted a goal and an assist the last time these teams met. Jordan Eberle has 15 points (3-12-15) in his last 15 games.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (18-36-10) AT BLACKHAWKS (38-21-5)
TV: SNOL, CSN-CH+
Season series: Right wing Marian Hossa had a goal and three assists, and center Jonathan Toews scored two goals to the give the Chicago Blackhawks a 7-1 victory in the first game against the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 22. Oilers forward Derek Roy had a goal and two assists, and Taylor Hall had two points in a 5-2 win on Jan. 9.
Oilers team scope: Edmonton has lost two games in a row and hasn’t won consecutive games since late January. The Oilers are 6-11-0 during that 17-game span and haven’t scored more than two goals in the past four games (1-3-0). They begin a five-game road trip Friday. Injured center Anton Lander (shoulder) and defenseman Nikita Nikitin (shoulder) will make the trip and could return at some point. Lander practiced in a yellow non-contact jersey at the Oilers’ most recent workout, but went through all drills and line rushes. He’s considered closer to returning than Nikitin. Forward Nail Yakupov’s production has increased while playing with Roy. Yakupov was held without a point in the past two games, but has nine points (four goals) in his past 13.
Blackhawks team scope: Chicago has won three of its past four games and will have all three players added through trades prior to the NHL Trade Deadline available. Gritty forward Andrew Desjardins, acquired from the San Jose Sharks, will debut at right wing on the third line. Center Antoine Vermette and defenseman Kimmo Timonen played their first game for Chicago in a 5-2 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes at United Center on Monday. The additions have made it harder for some to crack the lineup. "Right now, we’ve got some competition that we haven’t seen through most of the year," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after practice Thursday. "I think that’s healthier as you go along here." Goalie Corey Crawford will start. Injured defenseman Johnny Oduya (upper body) is skating on his own, but won’t play and is "very doubtful" to return this weekend.