EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers look to put a stop to their two-game slide when they take on the visiting Chicago Blackhawks at Rexall Place. The Blackhawks have won two straight and three of their last four, including a 4-2 win over Edmonton on November 8 in Chicago.
In that first meeting of the season, the Oilers went down 2-0 in the first period courtesy of two goals by rookie phenom Artemi Panarin (tied for ninth in league scoring and first among rookies with 18 points).
The Oilers came roaring back and outshot the Blackhawks 22-6 in the second period. They managed to make it a 3-2 game at 18:09 of the third, but fell 4-2 in the end with Artem Anismov scoring an insurance goal at 19:54.
“I thought we made some adjustments between the first and second periods, which allowed us to play a little cleaner, a little faster,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “They’re a quick team, they’re a smart team. They anticipate where pucks are going. They have good sticks, they can pick passes off and when you’re not moving fast and you’re not executing well they become even more effective.”
The Oilers will try and use that first meeting as a lesson for how they will play tonight on home ice against a tough opponent.
“We had to clean a few things up. I’d like to think we can see some of that tonight,” said McLellan. “One other thing that’s real important for our group to understand is that they will play in our end. They will roll around, they do it to every team in the league. They’ve got a lot of motion, d-men jumping down and through and that’s where they beat a lot of teams because panic sets in and we’ll have to play in our end, we’ll have to play well in our end. Our group can’t think that it’s just the Oilers that they’re doing it to. If we handle that well, we’ll be fine.”
In addition to not panicking, the Oilers need to play a full game in order to hand the Blackhawks their ninth loss of the season.
“They’re obviously a really good team,” said Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse. “We played pretty well in Chicago I think. We didn’t put in a full 60-minute effort and that’s something we’ll need to do tonight. They’re a good team and we’re going to have to come out and play as hard as we can.”
Patrick Kane leads the NHL in scoring with 28 points in 18 games. He also leads the league with 13 goals.
Kane now has points in 13 straight games and is averaging 1.77 points per game in that span (10-12-23). He had a goal and three assists for four points in the Blackhawks first meeting against the Oil. Stopping him is going to be one of the club’s top priorities tonight.
“Number 99 that played here, nobody could take the puck off him and nobody could hit him and 88 has that same sense, that spacial awareness and who is coming and how to roll off, protect himself and still make the plays. I’m not saying Patrick Kane is Wayne Gretzky, but for years now teams have been saying, ‘let’s be physical on him, let’s catch him with his head down.’ That doesn’t happen. He’s very evasive and he’s got vision and hands at the same time. Not every player has that,” said McLellan.
Combating high-end skill is a challenge for the Oilers, both their forwards and defence, but they’re ready to give it a go.
“Just go out there and play hard,” said Nurse. “They’re fast, but you can’t respect them too much. You have to be as tight as possible, as physical as possible and shut them down early.”
Lauri Korpikoski will return to the Oilers lineup for the first time since October 27.
“It feels good,” said the Oilers winger. “Good to be back with the team again. I’ve been practicing and I’m excited to go tonight.”
The Oilers penalty kill is one area in which Korpikoski may be able to help. The Oilers are 21st in the league on the PK (78.9%). Edmonton has allowed at least one power play goal in six of their last eight games.
“Our penalty kill has taken a hit over the last three weeks because teams are doing some good things, but in large part I think with some of the personnel we’ve been having to use,” said McLellan. “We didn’t train everybody at the beginning of the year to specialize in that area. We lost a number of penalty killers early, so it was back to the drawing board. I think getting these players back will help us.”
Season series: The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 at United Center on Nov. 8 in the first game. The Blackhawks' second line led the way. Rookie left wing Artemi Panarin had two goals and an assist, scoring twice in the first period. Center Artem Anisimov (goal, assist) and right wing Patrick Kane (goal, three assists) scored in the third. Defenseman Andrej Sekera and forward Jordan Eberle scored for the Oilers.
Blackhawks team scope: Goalie Corey Crawford will start for Chicago, which is 2-5-0 on the road heading into its "Circus Trip" to Western Canada and California. Since coach Joel Quenneville took over in October 2008, the Blackhawks have made six November "Circus Trips" and gone 25-10-2, outscoring opponents 125-92. They're 4-1-0 against the Oilers during that span and 11-2-0 overall on the trip the past two years, including 5-1-0 last season. "I certainly think your team gets a lot closer [during the trip], and with the number of new guys that we have, I think that'll be a good experience for some," Quenneville said. "The best thing about it [is] it'll be a good test to find out how we can play consistently on the road in some real tough buildings."
Oilers team scope: Edmonton is battling injuries and the flu. Eberle and forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Luke Gazdic and Matt Hendricks all sat out practice Monday, with all but Gazdic returning Tuesday. Eberle and Hendricks have undisclosed injuries. Nugent-Hopkins is getting over the flu. Coach Todd McLellan said goalie Anders Nilsson will start. Nilsson, who is 3-4-0 with a 3.21 goals-against average, was obtained in a trade with the Blackhawks on July 6 in exchange for forward prospect Liam Coughlin. The Oilers are trying to decide on a regular starting goalie between Nilsson and Cam Talbot. "We have confidence in both of them," McLellan told the Oilers website Tuesday. "We are trying to develop two goaltenders that are figuring their way out and trying to establish themselves as starters in the League."