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Oilers battle high-flying 'Hawks

by Staff Writer / Edmonton Oilers

The suddenly-surging Chicago Blackhawks pay a visit to Rexall Place tonight where they face off against the Edmonton Oilers.

After losing 10 straight games, including eight in regulation, Chicago has now won four of its last five games. Three of those four wins have come in a shootout or overtime.

This game is the fifth of a seven-game road trip for Chicago and comes on the heels of a come-from-behind 3-2 shootout win over Calgary followed the next night by a 3-0 blanking of the Vancouver Canucks.

The Oilers last game was also against Vancouver, a 5-2 loss Tuesday at home. Edmonton has picked up points in 10 of its last 16 games (8-6-2).

OILERS TO WATCH: Fernando Pisani has suited up in all 54 Oilers games this season, scoring 11 goals and adding 10 assists for 21 points. He also leads the Oilers with a +5 rating In two previous meetings with the Blackhawks this season, Pisani has put up a pair of assists After registering only one assist through 16 games, Marty Reasoner has a goal and two assists for three points in his last four games. In two games against Chicago this season, Reasoner has a goal and an assist.

BLACKHAWKS TO WATCH: Martin Havlat only played in one of the two prior meetings between the Oilers and Blackhawks but was dangerous as he netted two points. On the season, despite only playing in 32 of the teams 54 games he leads the Blackhawks in both goals (20) and points (40). He also has an impressive +19 rating Patrick Lalime made a successful debut with Chicago Wednesday in Vancouver as he stopped 34 shots for a shutout. He had missed the entire season to that point due to off-season back surgery. However, it is likely that Nikolai Khabibulin will get the nod in goal once again tonight. The Russian netminder is having a solid rebound campaign with a 2.75 goals-against average and .903 save percentage through 40 appearances. With 18 wins, he already has one more than all of last season.

ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton – Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is out. Daniel Tjarnqvist (inflamed pubic bone) is doubtful. Jarret Stoll (mild concussion) is questionable; Chicago – Michal Handzus (torn ACL) is out. Jim Vandermeer (broken leg) is out. Rene Bourque (ankle) is doubtful.

LINEUP UPDATE (11:24 AM): Marc-Antoine Pouliot will play tonight after being recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton yesterday. During the morning skate, he was centering Raffi Torres and Fernando Pisani. Winchester is expected to be the odd man out.

FAST FACTS: Despite their overall struggles this season, the Blackhawks have been about equal at home and on the road. Their road record is 10-13-4 compared to a 11-13-3 record at United Center. Chicago is 3-1-0 on their current seven-game road trip With Martin Havlat in the lineup, the Blackhawks are 15-14-3 averaging three goals a game (95 goals total). Without Havlat, the Hawks average 1.8 goals a game (40 goals total) with a record of 6-12-4.
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