CHICAGO, IL - The Edmonton Oilers are facing off against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight to kick off a four-game road trip and much like Friday's game against the Penguins, the team will need to concentrate on the logo in front and not the names on the back of their opponent's star-studded lineup.
“We weren’t at the right spots. We were a little bit too slow, I think," said Oilers defenceman Oscar Klefbom about the team's start against the Penguins. "It’s easy to give them too much respect and too much credit on the ice, and too much time. When we don’t look at the back of the jersey we play pretty solid, I think.”
Oilers head coach Todd McLellan said that it doesn't matter who the opponent is, the team needs to play the same way.
“We have to play our game. It doesn’t matter who we play against, we have to play to our identity and to our structure and to our foundation," McLellan began. "(We have to) work hard in every situation, prevent mistakes, try and pressure other teams into mistakes. If you’re back on your heels watching stars perform you can’t do that. I’m not saying that’s happened. We have to earn the other team’s respect and we have to push hard enough that it backs them off. And that’s our goals.”
LINEUP FOR TONIGHT
The Oilers at morning skate went with the same lines that they had Friday against the Penguins. They were:
Hall - Draisaitl - Eberle Pouliot - RNH - Yakupov Hendricks - Letestu - Purcell Lander - Miller - Pakarinen
On defence, the team had Mark Fayne paired with Oscar Klefbom, replacing Brandon Davidson. Fayne has been a healthy scratch each of the last two games.
“He’s had a chance to work on his game in practice and we believe that he can be a really good, effective player,” said McLellan about Fayne. “He’s played in this type of environment before against very good teams and we expect a real solid night from that pairing.”
Klefbom said that he was looking forward to skating with Fayne again.
“I’ve played with Fayner before so that’s not going to be a problem tonight. I like his style of play,” he said.
Fayne talked about getting a chance to play tonight.
“It’s been a little while but it’s always good to have a little kick in the pants and get things going again,” said Fayne, adding that having time after practice and following morning skates has also helped. “I think it’s also more the extra practice you have, time to work on stuff and get re-focused.”
Fayne was aware of the battle he'll have tonight, returning against some of the League's best offensive stars -- including Marian Hossa who will draw back in after missing three games due to injury.
“They’re a team that’s got a little bit of everything. They’ve got super skill in Toews and Kane and some guys that bang around and create some havoc. It’s a good team. It’s a good pace of the game.”
In goal, Cam Talbot will make his first start since a 5-4 loss to Calgary on Halloween.
“Definitely eager to get back at it,” said Talbot. “My last start wasn’t exactly what I wanted it to be and going to go back out tonight and have a rebound game.”
The netminder added that he's spent the last eight days working on some aspects of his game.
“You never want to sit for that long and think about that but it gave me some time to work on some things that maybe I needed to tighten up. You can look at it as a negative but I try to look at it as a positive and use the time to work on some stuff, get back in there tonight and turn things around for myself.”
Talbot had some kind words for Oilers goaltending coach Dustin Schwartz, who he's been working with quite a bit as of late.
“He’s very instrumental. We go over every game, he comes up with the drills and I know what I need to tighten up. We come up with a plan together — what we’re going to work on all week. We had a productive week and I’m eager to get back out there.”
Coach McLellan was looking forward to seeing Talbot rebound tonight.
“We want Cam to be confident and make the simple saves as he’s been doing all year. He had one bad game and it got away on him a little bit but he’s been pretty solid all the way through,” he stated, adding the team itself also needs to support their goaltender.
“Our group has to play well in front of him. We know Chicago’s a dynamic offensive team that can really roll around in the o-zone. They create a lot of movement and motion so from a goaltender’s perspective he’s got to keep an eye on what’s going on.”
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (5-9-0) at BLACKHAWKS (7-6-1)
TV: NHLN-US, SN, WGN
Season series: The Chicago Blackhawks won two of three games against the Edmonton Oilers last season. Right wing Marian Hossa had a goal and six assists to lead Chicago; captain Jonathan Toews had two goals and three assists.
Oilers team scope: Edmonton will play nine of its next 11 games on the road, with a four-game trip to start the stretch. The Oilers lost their first game since rookie Connor McDavid fractured his left clavicle, but coach Todd McLellan was upbeat following the 2-1 loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Rexall Place on Friday. McDavid is out indefinitely, but McLellan's expectations for the Oilers haven't dipped. "We know what we're going into," McLellan told the Oilers website. "We're going into a tough spell on the road, but that's OK. We'll go out and it'll be a new experience for us. We'll play against some hard, heavy teams and we'll work on our game. We'll try to get better." McLellan hasn't announced his goalie after Anders Nilsson made his second straight start Friday.
Blackhawks team scope: Chicago, which did not practice Saturday, has allowed 20 goals in its past five games. All were played without injured defenseman Duncan Keith, who remains out for at least two more weeks recovering from surgery Oct. 20 to repair a meniscal tear in his right knee. The Blackhawks are 4-3-1 in their first eight games without Keith, but all three of their losses in regulation happened on the road. Losing away from United Center is an early-season trend for Chicago, which is 6-1-1 at home and just 1-5-0 on the road. "We've been around for a long time, a lot of the guys in here, so there's no panic at all," defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson told the Blackhawks website after a 4-2 loss at the New Jersey Devils on Friday. "But the League is so even nowadays. We can't get too far behind. We have to find a way to get points in every single game." Right wing Marian Hossa and center Artem Anisimov are each day-to-day with lower-body injuries. No starting goalie has been announced.