After seeing their four game winning streak snapped on Wednesday in Winnipeg, the Oilers return home tonight looking to get another streak going as they host the Chicago Blackhawks. This is the second of three meetings between the sides, and Chicago’s lone visit to Edmonton this season.
The Oilers are looking to make it four straight wins at home after winning three straight on home ice a week ago, and are looking for their second win in as many tries against the Hawks this season. On top of that, a win tonight could get Edmonton within three points of a wild card spot in the west. Let’s go 1-0.
Cam Talbot gets the start for the Oilers while Anton Forsberg gets the nod for Chicago.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: Attack the Hawks early. Chicago was beaten up last night in Vancouver and they are a fragile team right now. If the Oilers can get things going early and set the tone, they should be able to control this tilt against a tired and banged up Chicago team. Attack early and test Forsberg.
Chicago: Play hard along the boards. Edmonton was beaten by Winnipeg on Wednesday night because they were dominated in the neutral zone and along the boards. Chicago has the size, skill and toughness to do exactly the same thing to Edmonton tonight. Control the board battles and the Hawks should be able to control the pace of this game.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Oscar Klefbom, after missing three games, will return to the lineup tonight. Edmonton is at its best when their best defender is in the lineup and playing his best. Klefbom says he is good to go after receiving a shot in his shoulder last week. I’ll be interested to see how the Swede handles himself in his return to the lineup.
Chicago: Former Oiler Jordan Oesterle has found a home in Chicago. After signing with the Hawks on July 1st, the former Oiler prospect has done nothing but impress in the Windy City. He’s expected to be paired with Duncan Keith tonight, meaning we should expect our old friend to play a featured role. I’m interested to see how Oesterle looks in this spot.
As mentioned, Oscar Klefbom has been activated off the IR and will return to the lineup tonight. To make room for him, the Oilers have placed Eric Gryba on waivers for the purpose of assignment to the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors. We expect Edmonton’s forward lines to remain the same, meaning Anton Slepyshev is the healthy scratch. Yohann Auvitu will sit as well, and expectation is Brandon Davidson will sit for Klefbom.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Milan Lucic – Connor McDavid – Jesse Puljujarvi
Patrick Maroon – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Drake Caggiula
Jujhar Khaira – Leon Draisaitl – Ryan Strome
Mike Cammalleri – Mark Letestu – Zack Kassian
Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse – Kris Russell
Andrej Sekera – Matt Benning
The Hawks are on the second half of a back-to-back set, so not much is known about their lineup. That said, with Corey Crawford on the IR, I’d look for Forsberg to make the start. He was exceptional against Edmonton back in October during the Oilers’ 2-1 OT victory.
Chicago Blackhawks Lines:
Brandon Saad – Jonathan Toews – Ryan Hartman
Nick Schmaltz – Artem Anisimov – Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp – David Kampf – Alex DeBrincat
Lance Bouma – Tommy Wingels – John Hayden
Duncan Keith – Jordan Oesterle
Connor Murphy – Brent Seabrook
Gustav Forsling – Jan Rutta
Edmonton has won three out of their last four meetings with Chicago, including winning the season series 2-1 a year ago. As mentioned above, the Oilers won the only other meeting this season 2-1 in overtime on a Mark Letestu powerplay goal. Edmonton has won four of its last five games overall and three in a row on home ice.
Klefbom’s return to the lineup means Edmonton, for the first time this season, will have its full defensive group in the lineup. Andrej Sekera was out until eight days ago with a torn ACL he suffered during the playoffs last year, but when he returned Klefbom went out with a nagging shoulder issue. It’ll be interesting to see how Todd McLellan uses his group tonight.
Edmonton has nine games remaining before the bye week starts on January 13th. All nine contests will be against Western opponents, with many of them right in front of Edmonton for a playoff spot. If the Oilers are going to make a push up the standings, it’s going to be now or never.
The Hawks are banged up and playing bad hockey, while the Oilers are healthy and playing their best hockey of the season. On top of that, Chicago has been awful on back-to-backs this season, while the Oilers are finally making Rogers Place a tough place to play.
The result? Edmonton gets back in the win column with a 5-2 victory over the Hawks. Lucic, Strome, Caggiula, Letestu and Cammalleri score for Edmonton, while Kane and Hartman tally for the Hawks.
Let’s go 1-0 tonight, that’s how Edmonton will climb its way back into this thing.