The Edmonton Oilers wrap up a four-game road trip tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks. So far on the trip, the team has won once and lost twice. A win tonight against the Blackhawks would ensure that the team heads home at .500 for the trip.
Luke Gazdic is out with a shoulder injury which means that the team is going to have to do some shuffling up front. Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins touched on those changes during the team’s morning media availability at the hotel.
“Gazdic’s out, he won’t play. I’ll probably keep two lines the same but Arcobello will go back into the middle and I’ll put Jonesy with Joensuu and Gordon to give us a little bit of heaviness on a line. I’ll put Arco with Smytty and Yak and see if we can get something going there.”
The two lines remaining the same are Hall, Gagner, Hemsky and Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle, Perron.
Devan Dubnyk gets the start in goal once again tonight.
Eakins added that Belov will play tonight as the NHL has revoked the match penalty.
“I believe everything’s been rescinded. There’s nothing there and he’s good to go,” he said.
Dubnyk will be making his fourth straight start after returning from an ankle injury and faces his stiffest test with the defending Cup Champion Blackhawks.
“They’re obviously a great hockey team. You’ve got to be prepared. They have a ton of skill up front but they work hard and put a lot of pucks on the net. It’s something that you have to be prepared for and they can transition pretty quick as well. A little bit of everything from them and that’s why they’re as good as they are.”
This will be the team’s second game in two days but Dubnyk said it doesn’t really have the same feel as a normal back-to-back.
“It doesn’t feel like it usually would where you’d get in late in the middle of the night then turn it around the next day. I think that’s good for us. I think we’re actually in a better spot than they are as far as rest and travel.”
Coming off a game last night in Dallas, the Blackhawks are expected to go with Nikolai Khabibulin in goal tonight. Dubnyk said that while it will be fun to go head-to-head with his former teammate he makes a point to not concern himself with who’s at the other end.
ARCOBELLO AND GAGNER
Saturday in Philadelphia, as the game went on, Eakins reduced the ice time of Sam Gagner and increased that of Mark Arcobello to the point where Gagner ended up playing just over 15 minutes and Arcobello just under 15.
“He is surprising me,” Eakins said of Arcobello. “I thought a few games ago he had maybe hit a wall and was going to start going the other way. He quickly rebounded. He’s doing all those little things right. The habits that you need to be a good hockey player. And once again, we were just going over some of those things in the meeting we had.”
Arcobello is second on the team in scoring with 12 points in 18 games and a minus-two rating. In five games, Gagner has just one assist and is minus-seven.
“With Gags, we need more out of Sam. Sam knows that. He’s feeling it, he wants to give more, he’s trying to find his way. But the hard reality of the game is when there’s others playing better than you in a game they’re going to start to end up with the minutes.
“I know Sam is really going to start to dig his heels and give us a strong performance. And I’m hopeful that Arcobello keeps going because we need him right now.”
SUCCESS VERSUS BLACKHAWKS
The Oilers have done well in recent years against the Chicago Blackhawks having picked up points in five of the last six match-ups (4-1-1) including some huge blowout wins like 9-2 on November 19, 2011 and 8-4 on February 2, 2012.
However, the Blackhawks are the defending Stanley Cup Champions and the Oilers know that they need to bring their best game or risk getting blown out of the water.
“It doesn’t matter who you play on any given night in this league, it’s going to be a hard game. But you can’t be lackadaisical in your approach with the Chicago Blackhawks,” Eakins began. “This is a team over the years who weren’t in a great place for quite awhile then learned how to win. They have great habits. They’re very sound defensively and are able to utilize their skill properly. I’m hopeful that our guys are going to come to play. It’s a great measuring stick to see where you’re at. There should be some fear in the game tonight.”
Big story: The Oilers conclude their four-game road trip against the Blackhawks, who will be seeking their third straight win. Edmonton has dropped back-to-back games after opening the trip with a 4-3 overtime victory against the Florida Panthers.
Oilers: Edmonton's struggles continued Saturday, when it suffered a 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. David Perron and Taylor Hall scored for the Oilers, but that wasn't enough to prevent their seventh loss in the past eight games. Devan Dubnyk stopped 30 of 34 shots in the defeat.
"I thought we started well the first 10 minutes of the game and then we took a penalty, and it kind of unraveled from there," Hall said. "They had some really good time in our end, had some really good chances. [Dubnyk] made a lot of big stops tonight, where in the past couple games we haven't been giving up those kinds of shots. It's something we have to clean up."
Blackhawks: Chicago made it two in a row Saturday behind the work of right wing Patrick Sharp, who had four assists to lead the Blackhawks to a 5-2 win against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center. Marian Hossa scored twice and Jonathan Toews had a goal and an assist for Chicago, which killed six Dallas power plays.
The Blackhawks have scored five or more goals in six of their past eight games.
"We've been creating our fair share of chances all season long and early on the pucks seemed to be staying out and now they seem to be able to score with every line," Sharp said. "Our defense is great at creating and jumping into plays. We don't try to look at the numbers and say we should be scoring this many goals a game. We're just trying to help each other and create offense."
Who's hot: Hall has four goals in the past three games for Edmonton. … Over the past five games, Sharp has two goals and five assists, Hossa has four goals and three assists and Toews has five goals and two assists.