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Blackhawks continue home-heavy March schedule by hosting Oilers

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Chicago and Edmonton have split their two prior meetings this season.

Edmonton Oilers v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

Riding a three-game winning streak, the Blackhawks will look for their fourth win in a row on Thursday at United Center when they face the Oilers.

Entering Thursday’s action, Chicago remains six points out of a playoff spot, trailing both the Coyotes and Jets, who each have 74 points in 68 games. The Blackhawks have two games in hand on those teams but zero games in hand on the two Central Division foes they’re chasing: the Wild (73 points) and Predators (72 points).

The last time the Blackhawks faced the Oilers, Connor McDavid was out of the lineup with an injury, seemingly giving Chicago a massive opportunity to capture two vital points in the standings. But that opportunity was missed, as Edmonton rode a pair of Kailer Yamamoto goals to a 5-3 victory on Feb. 11, part of the Blackhawks dreadful trek through western Canada last month. That win was part of a 4-1 stretch for Edmonton, which then lost four of five, but has rebounded in the last week with three straight victories, including an 8-3 shellacking of the Nashville Predators on Monday night. Edmonton’s most recent outing was a 2-1 overtime win over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night.

At the trade deadline, Edmonton added a ton of speed to its bottom six with the addition of Andreas Athanasiou, an element that has been difficult for the Blackhawks to handle at times this season and this will be Chicago’s first look at Athanasiou in Edmonton colors this winter.

As was the case in the prior matchup, Edmonton’s owns a decided advantage in the special teams matchup. It boasts the top-ranked power play in the league at a 29.95-percent conversion rate and the penalty kill is second in the league at 84.38-percent. With 59 power play goals scored and 30 surrendered, the Oilers’ plus-29 goal differential on special teams is, by far, the best in the league (Boston is second at plus-21). But, at 5-on-5 play, Edmonton is significantly less dominant. According to Natural Stat Trick, Edmonton has a minus-18 goal differential this season at 5-on-5 play, with only six teams posting a worse mark entering Wednesday night’s games. Avoiding a special teams battle will help Chicago obtain the two points it needs to keep alive whatever playoff hopes it still has.

Little change is expected with the Blackhawks lineup, which isn’t unusual for a team in the middle of a three-game winning streak. To extended it’s winning streak to four games, Chicago needs a performance more in line with it’s Oct. 14 win over Edmonton — which was the Blackhawks’ first win of the season and the Oilers’ first loss — and miles away from the dismal effort against a McDavid-less Edmonton team in February.

If there’s anything to be salvaged from this season, one point against Edmonton is virtually required and a second is also of the utmost importance. Relevant Blackhawks hockey games in March would be a nice change of pace, wouldn’t it?

Let’s Go Hawks!

Blackhawks — Statistic — Oilers

48.3% (25th) — Corsi For — 48.1% (26th)

46.6% (28th) — Expected goals for — 48.9% (21st)

2.98 (18th) — Goals per game — 3.16 (13th)

3.11 (21st) — Goals against per game — 3.03 (14th)

15.1% (28th) — Power play — 29.9% (1st)

82.4% (7th) — Penalty kill — 84.4% (2nd)

Lineups

Blackhawks

Kubalik — Toews — Saad

Nylander — Strome— Kane

DeBrincat — Dach — Caggiula

Highmore — Kampf— Carpenter

Keith — Boqvist

Maatta — Koekkoek

Carlsson — Murphy

Crawford

Subban

Oilers

Neal — McDavid — Ennis

Nugent-Hopkins — Draisaitl — Yamamoto

Archibald — Sheahan — Kassian

Athanasiou — Khaira — Chiasson

Nurse — Bear

Jones — Larsson

Russell — Benning

Smith

Koskinen

How to watch

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Live stream: NBC Sports app, NHL.TV, ESPN+