The Blackhawks’ last stop on their three game road trip is in Edmonton for a match up with Connor McDavid and the Oilers. The two squads enter Tuesday night’s game trending in different directions. On one hand, the Hawks are coming off a 4-3 overtime win in Minnesota to extend their winning streak to a season long four games.
On the other hand, the Oilers are in tumultuous waters. Ken Hitchcock replaced Todd McLellan behind the bench in late November, general manager Peter Chiarelli was fired before the All Star Break, and the Oilers are losers of five straight. Their superstar and captain, McDavid, has been vocal lately with words like these, “If you don’t believe in this group and you’re in the locker room, you need to leave.” It is clear that the Oilers have some franchise alerting decisions coming up, which includes hiring a new general manager and deciding if it is time to rebuild and sell assets at the upcoming Feb. 25 trade deadline.
The Hawks were in a similar position not too long ago, but now find themselves with some renewed swagger, and a chance to climb back into the Western Conference Wild Card race.
During this stretch of winnings ways, Patrick Kane scored his 900th career point in his hometown of Buffalo, New York, and is the youngest American-born player to achieve that milestone. They have also beat the top two teams from the Metropolitan Division, the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders. Kane, who is on a 11-game point streak, is not the only one providing a spark on offense during this winning streak. Captain Johnathan Toews is on a four-game point streak, Alex DeBrincat is on five-game point streak, and Dylan Strome has two goals and five assists in his last four games.
Kane continues to pace the Hawks with 76 points in 52 games and is tied for second in the NHL in points with McDavid. Defenseman Erik Gustafsson has moved up to fifth on the team in goals scored with ten following a two goal performance, which included an OT winner, against the Wild. Gustafsson has become one of the top scoring threats from the blue line in the NHL this season, and is only three goals behind the current leader, Morgan Rielly from the Toronto Maple Leafs. His offensive audacity has landed him a spot on the top power play unit, and he has been instrumental in taking a power play that ranked dead last in the NHL earlier this season to 15th with a 20.6-percent conversion rate.
In Edmonton, the heartbeat of the team continues to be their top three centers, McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. They are by far that top offensive performers on the team and are the core of the Oilers that Edmonton fans can rally around during this period of transition in the front office and hockey operations group. McDavid leads the team with 76 points (31 G, 45 A), Draisaitl has 63 points (29 G, 34 A), and Nugent-Hopkins has 48 points (16 G, 32 A) this season. Their power play’s success hinges on these three player’s talent, and is ranked ninth in the NHL with a 21.4-percent conversion rate.
Additionally, this will be the first game between the two franchises since defenseman Brandon Manning was traded to the Oilers for Drake Caggiula. Manning has often been heathy scratched by Hitchcock, while Caggiula has been playing on the top line for the Hawks with Kane and Toews.
Both teams have important decisions to make as the trade deadline rapidly approaches, and with the way the Western Conference is playing out this season those plans can all change in an instant depending on how the next two weeks go. The Hawks hope to capture their fifth straight and continue to inch their way closer to the second wild card spot.
*Lineups subject to change.
Cam Ward is starting in net. Koekkoek is in for Forsling and Kunitz for Perlini.— Scott Powers (@ByScottPowers) February 5, 2019
Caggiula - Toews - Kane
DeBrincat - Strome - Kahun
Saad - Kampf - Kruger
Kunitz - Anisimov - Hayden
Keith - Seabrook
Koekkoek - Gustafsson
Lucic - McDavid - Rattie
Rieder - Draisaitl - Chiasson
Khaira - Nugent-Hopkins - Kassian
Malone - Brodziak - Puljujarvi
Klefbom - Larsson
Nurse - Russell
Gravel - Benning
How to Watch
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Rogers Place, Edmonton