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Blackhawks @ Oilers Game Preview

January 26, 2010

Game Time: 8:30 CST
TV/Radio: TSN, CSN / WGN (720-AM)
Know Thy Enemy: Copper & Blue

Stat Pack:

Blackhawks Oilers
L10 Games 6-3-1 0-8-2
Record on the Road: 14-8-3 at Home: 9-14-4
PP% 21.0% 19.2%
PK 85.6% 74.1%

To say the Oilers are struggling is an understatement. They’ve lost the most man-games due to injuries and after a 5-game winning streak to kick off their December, they’ve only won 1 game in the last 18–and it was against Toronto.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that the Blackhawks can just sit back and forget to play. The Oilers have held their own against teams like the Coyotes and the Canucks, pushing the last games against those teams to overtime. They came back from two 2-goal deficits against Phoenix and led against Vancouver until the last five minutes of regulation, but lost both contests in the extra 5-minute frame when an Oiler was sent to the penalty box, and their 29th ranked PK bit them in the behind.

Staying disciplined and drawing penalties is key for the Blackhawks tonight, and while I’m usually tempted to poke fun at the “clown shoes” PP, a quick look at the Blackhawks’ recent play shows more focus should perhaps be given to the penalty kill.

In a span of 14 games from the end of November toward the end of December, the Blackhawks have allowed 1 power play goal against. In the 14 games since then, they’ve allowed 9. The Oilers’ 19.2% conversion rate is tied for 10th in the league, but in the last 14 games, the Blackhawks have given up power play goals to teams that ranked–with the exception of the Ducks, who are tied at 10th–below the Oilers. In fact, the penalty kill has allowed the bottom 3 power play teams (Calgary, St Louis, Ottawa) a goal each. Granted, the Blackhawks are still 4th in the league for the PK, but they used to jostle against the Sharks for 1st place. Interestingly, the Hawks’ PK held top power play teams (4th ranked Vancouver, 7th ranked Columbus, 8th ranked New Jersey) goalless in that same time-span, so maybe it’s just a matter of the boys playing down to the level of their competition. Add to that, Sopel is out for tonight (nothing serious, according to Jesse Rogers), so what holes that exist in the PK could be compounded with the loss of the best shot-blocker on the team. Either way, couple that with the defensive lapses we’ve seen in the last couple of games and you have to wonder if the team is, indeed, beginning to feel the length of an 82-game season.

The Blackhawks are playing the 6th of an 8-game, 15-day roadtrip that takes them 7000 miles around North America. They’ve dropped 2 of 5 so far, and are looking for a win tonight. It seems 10pts is the magic number, the goal set forth by Quenneville before the team embarked on this road trip, and Edmonton will be a damn fine place to grab 2 of those last 4 points, especially since San Jose and a now-heating-up Carolina are up next on the schedule.

Cristobal Huet (2.26 GAA, 0.904 SV%) will be in net for the men in the Indianhead sweaters, and Jeff Deslauriers (3.18 GAA, .896 SV%) will be starting for Edmonton, since Nikolai Khabibulin’s been sidelined with a herniated disc and could be facing season-ending surgery, leaving Edmonton’s goaltending to Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk (3.92 GAA, 0.869 SV%).

Speaking of backs, the Blackhawks would have welcomed back a member of the roster at today’s morning skate. Dave Bolland, out since early November after undergoing back surgery, was expected to begin practicing with the team during this trip, perhaps even returning to action before the Olympic break begins. Speculate all you want about who stays and who goes with his return, but you cannot deny this is a good problem for the team to have.

I doubt Bolland will make his return tonight, though, so Sharp will keep centering Hossa and Ladd for the time being. He really hasn’t done a bad job, logging a respectable 52.6% on the dot behind Madden’s 53.1% and Toews’ inhuman 58.1%, and that 2nd line’s been clicking of late as well. Scoring has been distributed among all four lines but look to the captain to lead his team out of their uncharacteristic, defensively sort-of-irresponsible play. (Okay, I know the Hawks are still among the best in the league for defense, but that’s what happens when you get spoiled: you start to strive for perfection.)

On paper, this is a game that is the Hawks’ to lose, but they should be fine if they play with discipline and defensively sound hockey. Scoring more than the other team does might help too.

Let’s get it done.

Belatedly, an Introduction:

Hi, all. This is ChiBlackhawks with my first post here. I’ve kept my Blackhawks thoughts to 140 characters long for the most part, with a few occasional posts and comments over at SecondCityHockey, but did jump at the chance to start blogging when Andrew asked. Like he said, we’re in the process of improving the site both content-wise and its general layout, so bear with us for the time being while we figure things out.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 26, 2010 5:58 PM

    Toews is getting into Yanic Perrault territory with that amazing FO%.
    Is it bad luck that I’ve been wearing a Khabi player shirt all day?

    • chiblackhawks permalink*
      January 26, 2010 7:00 PM

      I’m not sure, but it better not counter my Huet shirt’s juju!

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