The Oilers face the Chicago Blackhawks for the second time in five days, with the Blackhawks set to play twice in as many nights after losing 4-2 to the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday.
In their previous meeting, it was a level playing field, as both clubs were on the heels of back-to-backs. Edmonton was able to win the tight affair 2-1, getting a Connor McDavid overtime winner and a 31-save performance from goaltender Cam Talbot.
"It was a bit of a weird game," said forward Drake Caggiula, who scored twice against the Nashville Predators on Saturday. "It was tight-checking both ways and normally Chicago plays an open style with a lot of offence. We'll see what we get from them tonight but we're going to make sure we play a strong defensive game and check for our chances."
TWEAK & TINKER
Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan is tweaking his lineup ahead of Thursday's match.
Caggiula skated alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and McDavid at Wednesday's practice, and Jesse Puljujarvi took reps with Milan Lucic and Ryan Strome on the third line.
"Play with that energy, passion and that aggressiveness," Caggiula said of what he needs to do to support the Oilers two top-line forwards. "Cause havoc on the forecheck, create a lot of loose puck opportunities and allow them to do their thing… If I can just be ready to shoot it at all times it's going to go a long way for me."
Puljujarvi last dressed on Oct. 23, against the Pittsburgh Penguins and notched his only point of the season - a goal - on Oct. 16, versus the Winnipeg Jets.
Since then, the Finn has been putting in the requisite time at skates, getting on the ice early and getting off it late. During games, the 20-year-old's observed his teammates from the press box, being guided by the tutelage of Oilers Assistant Coach Manny Viveiros and Goaltender Coach Dustin Schwartz.
"Instead of being in the weight room or just sitting in the stands, press box, they've been sitting with the coaching staff upstairs," said McLellan. "They've been going through different situations or scenarios, clarifying language, making sure some of the situations that we've talked to them about they see and can analyze from up high. They're willing to work on their game when they're not in the lineup.
"It's been a good experience so far. Now we hope it transfers to the ice surface."
KOSKINEN MANS THE PIPES
For the second time this season, backup netminder Mikko Koskinen will man the twine for the Oil. The Finnish keeper was stellar in his debut with the franchise, stopping 24 shots against the powerhouse Nashville Predators on Saturday.
"Mikko played in a tough environment, tough road trip, without a morning skate," said McLellan. "I felt like he instilled confidence in our group."
The 6-foot-7 guardian didn't look out of place, starting his night with a knob save on Viktor Arvidsson's breakaway attempt in Tennessee.
"I think it was a breakaway early in the game that he made a stop on and everybody said, 'OK, Mikko's here, we better get going,'" said McLellan. "He looked confident, he looked under control, he handled rebounds well, he understood the tempo and the momentum of a game.
"I feel really good about putting him in there tonight."
Koskinen said he continues gaining comfort in North America and likes how the Oilers have been trending lately.
"I'm excited to get my first start at home," he said. "We've been playing really well and if we keep playing the way we are, it's going to be good for us."
SOUND SPECIAL TEAMS
Edmonton was blanked on both sides of the special teams department in their 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. The club failed to score on their five power plays and couldn't relieve the three penalties against. It prompted the team to pore over their penalty kill on Wednesday.
"You never want to see your special teams lose you a game," said Oilers Captain McDavid. "I thought yesterday was a good reset for us."
The Orange & Blue rank 14th on the man-advantage with a 21.9 percent rating and 28th on the PK with a 69.4 clip.
At the other side of the ice, Chicago is 26th on the power play, clicking at 14 percent and 19th on the kill with a 77.5 percent success rate.
Here's the expected lineup against the Blackhawks:
Klefbom - Larsson Nurse - Russell Garrison - Benning
-- Paul Gazzola, EdmontonOilers.com
OILERS (6-4-1) vs. BLACKHAWKS (6-4-3)
TV: 7:00 p.m. MDT; Televised on Sportsnet West
Tonight's game is the second of three meetings between the Oilers and Blackhawks this season. Edmonton edged Chicago with a 2-1 OT on Sunday. The season series will conclude on Tuesday, Feb. 7, at Rogers Place.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers had their previous three-game winning streak snapped by the Minnesota Wild, in a game that saw the home side lead three times but ultimately fall 4-3. The Oil struggled in the special teams department, going 0-for-3 on the penalty kill and 0-for-5 on the man-advantage.
Prior to Tuesday's mishap at the hands of the Wild, Edmonton defeated the Washington Capitals, Nashville Predators and the Blackhawks. After starting the season 0-2, the club has gone 6-2-1, establishing a 2-2-1 record at Rogers place and 4-2-0 away from it.
Blackhawks team scope:
On Wednesday, the Blackhawks were upended by a pair of third-period markers against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. For the second time in the past five days, Chicago will play the Oilers on the latter half of a back-to-back. Connor McDavid's winner 53 seconds into the extra session on Sunday put the Oil past the Hawks 2-1.
Chicago was without the services of Patrick Kane on Wednesday, being sidelined due to an illness. Kane's absence from the lineup terminated his 258-game regular season Ironman streak.
The Hawks are currently riding a three-game winless skid. They are 3-2-2 at the United Center and 3-2-1 on the road.
By the Numbers:
With nine goals in 11 games, Connor McDavid sits three bingos back of the National Hockey League lead. The Oilers Captain is also in a seven-way tie for first in power-play points with eight.
Alex Chiasson currently possesses a 66.7 percent shooting percentage, scoring four goals on six shots. That places him fourth in the League overall and first among players who have dressed in three games or more.
Kane tops the League alongside Boston's David Pastrnak with 11 goals this season. Former Erie Otter Alex DeBrincat has eight goals and 14 points, while captain Jonathan Toews is up to seven goals and 12 points. The three Blackhawks players are first, second and third on their team in shots with 58, 41 and 40, respectively.
Chicago is second in the League in goals for with 43. The Oilers are 22nd in that regard, scoring 32 goals this season.
Chicago went 1-for-2 on the PP against Vancouver on Wednesday and are 26th in the League with a 14 percent power-play percentage. The visitors also have a 77.5 percent penalty kill.
The Blackhawks are 5-1-3 when they light the lamp first this season and are 1-3-0 when their opponent scores first.
Edmonton has shown resilience when faced with deficits, going 4-2-0 when their competition tallies the opening goal. They are 2-2-0 when they score first.
Neither club has lost when they lead after 40 minutes of play but both are 1-3-1 when trailing after two periods.
OILERS -Andrej Sekera (Achilles) is on IR; Ty Rattie (upper body) is day-to-day.
BLACKHAWKS - Patrick Kane (illness) is day-to-day; Connor Murphy (back) is on IR.