CHICAGO, IL - The Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks each had an impressive streak snapped earlier this week.
The Oil saw their stretch of six consecutive wins halted at Madison Square Garden with a 4-2 loss to the Rangers on Tuesday, while the defending Stanley Cup champion Hawks were blanked 3-0 by the Colorado Avalanche the same night, thus ending Patrick Kane’s 26-game point streak.
Kane will no doubt be looking be looking to get back on the scoresheet tonight at the United Center, and the Oilers would certainly love to start a new stretch of victories, with tonight’s game, Saturday in Denver and Monday back home vs. Winnipeg remaining before the brief holiday break.
“It’s going to be a really good test for us tonight… we have to get back to work,” said Taylor Hall, who leads the team with 35 points. “You don’t want to lose two in a row. It’d be nice to get right back on the horse and get a win in a building like this. That streak was nice. Everyone was feeling good and everyone felt like they were chipping in. It’d be great to get back at it tonight and assure ourselves .500 on the trip.”
The Oilers have lost a pair of tightly-contested games against the Hawks this season, 4-2 in the Windy City on Nov. 8 and 4-3 in OT on Nov. 18 at Rexall Place, with Marian Hossa picking up the sudden-death GWG.
Jordan Eberle, Teddy Purcell and Darnell Nurse have recorded multiple points vs. Chicago this season, while Hawks rookie Artemi Panarin has lit up the Oil with three goals and three assists combined in the two previous games. From Kane to Panarin to Hossa to Jonathan Toews to stud defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, Chicago’s firepower is no secret to the Edmonton squad.
“It’s our third time against them in about a month,” Coach Todd McLellan said. “Our group has tremendous respect for the way they play and their talent level. We’re aware that they’re dangerous in the offensive zone with five active guys all over the place. They’re a hard team to handle… To be in the right spot at the right time and have some defensive awareness will be really important for us, and then we’ve got to take advantage of any opportunities we get offensively. They don’t give up very many.”
JUJHAR BACK IN
Fully recovered from an injury that kept him out since Oct. 27, Rob Klinkhammer made his return to the Oilers lineup on Tuesday against the Rangers. However, the winger incurred an injury during that game and won’t play tonight, allowing up-and-comer Jujhar Khaira to get back in the lineup after sitting out Tuesday.
The 21-year-old has recorded a pair of assists in eight games since his call-up from Bakersfield (AHL), and he brings a strong physical presence to his arsenal of skills. Khaira echoed Hall’s notion of bouncing right back from Tuesday’s streak-ending loss in the Big Apple.
“We need to start a new streak here,” he said. “Everybody in here loves winning and that’s what we’re going to try to do tonight.”
The Surrey, B.C. native is, as you’d expect, quite excited to play his first game against the defending Cup champs and match up against their superstar talent.
“For myself, individually, it’s going to be cool playing against all these guys you watch on TV,” Khaira said. “It’s good challenge for me to see where I’m at… but I’m not going to think about it too much and just play my game.”
IIRO GOOD TO GO
Despite leaving Tuesday’s game in New York after blocking a shot with the team shorthanded, winger Iiro Pakarinen is healthy and ready to play tonight in Chicago.
“I’m ready to go,” the Finn said. “It was just a blocked shot with a little bit of stiffness on my muscles, so we decided not to play those two periods in New York, but I’m ready to go tonight… Sometimes that happens (when you’re killing penalties), but it’s good that it’s nothing serious.”
Pakarinen has tallied three goals and two assists in 24 games this season, logging important minutes on both the power play and penalty kill.
“He’s been a nice, found player for us as a staff,” Coach McLellan said. “We didn’t know much about him. Some of the management team that was here before was promoting him, but you sometimes have to see it yourself to believe it. He’s been really good in a lot of areas. Once he took more penalty kill minutes on, our penalty kill has improved. He’s been able to block shots, be big and strong along the walls. He really understands our systems and what we want to do. He’s tried to execute them really well, and every now and then he throws in a big point or a big goal. He’s been a productive player for us.”
While Pakarinen is no worse for wear after leaving Tuesday’s game, Klinkhammer, as mentioned, is back on the injury list, while fellow forward Benoit Pouliot is inching closer to his return to the lineup. Pouliot, who has accumulated 12 points in 24 games this season, hasn’t played since Nov. 30 vs. Toronto.
“Benoit is not ready to play yet… he’s got more work to do,” McLellan said. “He was moving ahead really well and had a little bit of a setback. We expect him, potentially, to play on this trip or maybe before Christmas. Mother Nature and Benny take care of that right now.”
On Sunday in Boston, GM Peter Chiarelli said defenceman Oscar Klefbom could potentially join the team on this road trip, but Coach McLellan said today that won’t be the case. Like Pouliot, however, the team may get their top defenceman (TOI and points-wise) back in the lineup on Monday vs. Winnipeg.
Tonight’s Oilers lineup, based on morning skate, will be:
Season series: The Chicago Blackhawks have won two games against the Edmonton Oilers. Chicago forward Patrick Kane extended his point streak to 10 games with a third-period goal in a 4-2 win at United Center on Nov. 8, and pushed it to 14 games with a primary assist on a goal by Duncan Keith in a overtime win at Rexall Place on Nov. 18. Marian Hossa scored at 1:08 of overtime to win the second game. Oilers forward Jordan Eberle has scored in each game.
Oilers team scope: Edmonton didn't practice Wednesday, after having a six-game win streak end in a 4-2 loss at the New York Rangers on Tuesday. The Oilers placed defenseman Oscar Klefbom (fractured finger) on injured reserve and he will not make the trip. Forward Benoit Pouliot (undisclosed) is questionable. Forward Iiro Pakarinen left the game against the Rangers after blocking a shot, and forward Rob Klinkhammer, who played after missing 21 games with an ankle injury, appeared to re-aggravate it. Goalie Cam Talbot is expected to start. "We're disappointed that we lost," coach Todd McLellan told the Oilers website in New York. "It doesn't matter if you've won two or three in a row, or you've lost five or six in a row. Every loss stings. It hurts. You begin to think individually, 'What could I have done better as a player [or] coach?' Collectively you begin to think that, so it's not a good feeling and no one's happy about that. It's the way it should be in our locker room."
Blackhawks team scope: Kane will look to start a new point streak after his ended at 26 games in Chicago's 3-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at United Center on Tuesday. The Blackhawks didn't practice Wednesday, so the starting goalie hasn't been announced. Corey Crawford, named the NHL's First Star of the Week on Monday, is the most likely. Newly acquired defenseman Rob Scuderi played left point on the third pairing against Colorado, and coach Joel Quenneville said he met expectations. Scuderi, 36, and 37-year old Michal Rozsival could form the third pairing for a second straight game. The Blackhawks aren't pleased with their puck-possession, which was an issue in the loss to the Avalanche. "Their goalie [Semyon Varlamov] does well against us and we misfired on some of our shots and [didn't have] enough traffic at the net, but we didn't have enough zone time, possession-wise," Quenneville said. "We didn't have the puck enough or long enough."