The Chicago Blackhawks are up at Rexall Place to face the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night in the second game of the annual Circus Trip. The team is coming off a 4-3 win over the the Calgary Flames on Thursday and has quietly won four of its past five.
The 'Hawks should have a good chance to keep that success rolling against one of the worst teams in the league on Saturday night. Edmonton has struggled in most facets of the game this season and has an accordingly terrible record with its last win coming nearly two weeks ago.
That means there's reason to be optimistic, but it's also important that the team doesn't come out flat against an obviously inferior opponent. The Oilers still have dangerous players like Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, so they can surprise when things are rolling.
Another reason to catch the game is the NHL debut of rookie forward Phillip Danault. He's filling in for Andrew Shaw on Saturday, with Jeremy Morin seemingly being the odd man out in Joel Quenneville's forward groupings for now. It's not particularly surprising given the lack of point production from Morin of late.
Goals shouldn't come too difficult against one of the worst goaltending teams in the league, though, so this is more or less a game Chicago should win with ease. You can see why this is the matchup for the 'Hawks to go with Antti Raanta in goal over Corey Crawford for a favorable matchup given the upcoming schedule.
Opponent Breakdown: Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers had some inconsistency earlier this season, but in recent weeks they've settled into just being plain old bad. The team is currently last in the Pacific Division with a 6-12-2 record, and has lost five consecutive games (including four at home).
The team appears to be a mess on both sides of the ice, sitting No. 23 goals scored and No. 27 in goals allowed, and indeed, things are pretty bad when you have six wins in late November. Still, the Oilers aren't a complete disaster, with slightly above-average possession numbers and -- more importantly -- the lowest PDO (97.1) in the league.
That kind of unfortunate luck around the net likely won't continue for Edmonton, not with scorers like the aforementioned Hall and Eberle. The bigger question is whether Ben Scrivens or Viktor Fasth can step up and become a steady goaltender, because right now neither has a save percentage above .900.
Pretty much no team can win games consistently with such poor performance in goal, and it's hard to imagine the team sticks with that duo all season if things don't get better. The Oilers aren't as bad as their record indicates, but the easiest way for them to back on track is get someone who can stop pucks regularly.
Still no Patrick Sharp and Trevor van Riemsdyk. Andrew Shaw is also sidelined with Philip Danault set to make his NHL debut a couple days after Adam Clendening did.
The Oilers will be without Benoit Pouliot, who broke his foot in the team's last game and is out indefinitely.
|Blackhawks vs. Oilers lineups
|Also see: The Copper & Blue, SBN's Oilers blog|
When: 9 p.m. CT
Where: Rexall Place
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(Statistics via NHL.com and Hockey Reference)