The Edmonton Oilers are set conclude a tough three game road trip over the course of four nights. They finish it in Chicago against the Blackhawks. It is the third and final meeting between the sides this season. They split the previous two battles, with the home team winning both.
The Oilers are coming off of a 2-1 overtime victory in Dallas against the Stars, while the Blackhawks crushed the Ducks 6-2. Both games were on Tuesday. The Oilers took the last meeting between these two, 5-3 at Rogers Place on February 11th.
Mike Smith gets the start for the Oilers, while Corey Crawford gets the go for the Blackhawks.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: Better five-on-five pressure is key for the Oilers tonight. Edmonton was dominated in that game state on Tuesday night. The Blackhawks don’t have the depth or defensive ability that the Stars do. They’ll need to take advantage of that by playing a fast game and controlling the puck at five-on-five. There will be chances to score if Edmonton can pressure at five-on-five consistently.
Chicago: Clog up the neutral zone. The Blackhawks allow an NHL-high 35.6 shots against per game. If they want to slow down Edmonton’s lethal attack, they’ll need to clog the neutral zone and slow down their stars. Limit the controlled-zone entries and force Edmonton to play more of a dump-and-chase style.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: James Neal was eased back in on Tuesday night in Dallas. Tonight? Neal is back with Connor McDavid. The veteran sniper will play with McDavid and Tyler Ennis. Can the veteran rebuild his chemistry with McDavid and break out of his scoring funk? He’s yet to light the lamp in 2020. He’ll get a great chance to do that tonight.
Chicago: Dylan Strome is hot right now. The pivot led the Blackhawks attack on Tuesday night with two goals and an assist in the victory over the Ducks. Strome anchors the second line for the Blackhawks and will have Patrick Kane on his wing. He’s a talented player with quite a bit of confidence right now. That’s dangerous.
Oscar Klefbom (shoulder), Mike Green (knee) and Joakim Nygard (hand) remain on IR and will not play tonight. Klefbom could return as soon as Saturday against Columbus. William Lagesson, Markus Granlund, Gaetan Haas and Patrick Russell will be tonight’s healthy scratches.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
James Neal – Connor McDavid – Tyler Ennis
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
Josh Archibald – Riley Sheahan – Zack Kassian
Andreas Athanasiou – Jujhar Khaira – Alex Chiasson
Darnell Nurse – Ethan Bear
Caleb Jones – Adam Larsson
Kris Russell – Matt Benning
The Blackhawks have been crippled by season-ending injuries to key veterans. Zack Smith (back), Brent Seabrook (shoulder, hips), Calvin de Haan (shoulder) and Andrew Shaw (concussion) are all out for the season.
Chicago Blackhawks Lines:
Dominik Kubalik – Jonathan Toews – Brandon Saad
Alex Nylander – Dylan Strome – Patrick Kane
Alex DeBrincat – Kirby Dach – Drake Caggiula
Matthew Highmore – David Kampf – Ryan Carpenter
Duncan Keith – Adam Boqvist
Lucas Carlsson – Connor Murphy
Nick Seeler – Slater Koekkoek
The Oilers are absolutely rolling right now. They are 16-6-4 over their last 26 games and have a playoff spot within their sights. In that span, they have outscored their opponents by a 96-75 margin. This is the best hockey the club has played in years.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins played his 600th NHL game on Tuesday night. Every one of those games has been as a member of the Oilers. How did he celebrate? He scored the club’s only goal in regulation, assisted on the game-winner in overtime and drew the penalty that set up the OT GWG.
Edmonton’s win on Tuesday gave them 80 points on the season. They finished the 2018-19 season with just 79 points. If the season ended today, those 80 points would represent the 4th best season since 2005-06. Edmonton finished with 103 points in 2016-17, 88 points in 2007-08 and 85 points in 2008-09.