NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, March 20th (All times eastern)
Edmonton Oilers (34-27-9) at Chicago Blackhawks (37-22-10), 8:30 p.m.
(Sports Network) - While the Edmonton Oilers recent play has them creating some separation at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff race, the Chicago Blackhawks' longest losing streak of the season has them slipping in the standings. The two clubs face off this evening at the United Center.
Edmonton is currently tied with Nashville for seventh overall in the West with 77 points, though the Oilers have played two fewer games than the Predators. The two teams own just a three-point edge over three other clubs for the conference's final two postseason spots.
The Oilers have won just three times in their last eight games, but have earned a point in six consecutive games (3-0-3). After going into overtime or a shootout in four contests in a row, Edmonton exploded for a season high in goals scored with an 8-1 win over Colorado on Thursday night.
Sam Gagner posted the first hat trick of his career and added an assist in the win. The second-year Oiler matched the 13 goals he scored as a rookie last year and extended his point streak to five games. Gagner has seven goals and six assists in his last eight contests.
The Oilers finally got some production out of Ales Kotalik as well. Acquired at the trade deadline from Buffalo, Kotalik notched his first points in an Edmonton uniform by posting a goal and three assists. Ethan Moreau and Sheldon Souray each added a goal and an assist in the victory.
Dwayne Roloson stopped 26-of-27 shots in helping the Oilers notch back-to-back games for the first time since a three-game win streak from February 11-16.
Edmonton is 18-15-3 on the road this year and won for just the second time in its last seven road outings last night. The Oilers end the trek in Minnesota on Sunday, one of the three teams that are three points back of the club in the standings.
The Blackhawks should pose a challenge for the Oilers, as Chicago has won all three meetings between the clubs this year by a 15-3 margin. Interestingly, the Blackhawks' best performance of the season offensively came in a 9-2 win over the Oilers on December 16, as the club set season highs in goals, power- play goals (4) and margin of victory.
Chicago, which has won four of its last five at home versus Edmonton, has dropped a season-high four games in a row and now trails hard-charging Vancouver by one point for the fourth spot in the West.
In Wednesday's 4-3 overtime loss to Columbus, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane each had a goal and an assist, with Kane extending his point streak to five games (3 goals, 3 assists). Dave Bolland also scored for Chicago, which has also lost six of its last seven and will try to avoid losing five straight tonight for the first time since January 22-February 6, 2008.
Cristobal Huet allowed four goals on 28 shots to take the loss. He won his lone start versus the Oilers this year, halting 20-of-21 shots faced, while fellow netminder Nikolai Khabibulin has posted a 1.00 goals against average in winning his two outings versus Edmonton this season.
Roloson, meanwhile, is 0-2-0 with a 4.14 GAA in three games (2 starts) against the Blackhawks this season, allowing 10 goals on 94 shots.
Chicago begins a five-game homestand tonight and is 18-8-6 as the host this year.
03/20 10:58:34 ET