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Calling All Skeletons: Blackhawks vs. Oilers Preview

The Blackhawks and Oilers both look to extend their win streaks.

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NHL: MAR 03 Oilers at Blackhawks Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks head into Thursday night hoping to extend their somewhat unexpected win streak to five games with a victory against the Edmonton Oilers.

The Oilers are also trying to extend their own win streak, albeit to three games. They defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 6-3 Monday night and then narrowly beat the St. Louis Blues 3-1 Wednesday night. The game in Chicago will be their third game in four nights and the final one on a three-game road trip before they return home to Edmonton.

In their latest win, it was one of those rare occasions where neither Connor McDavid nor Leon Draisaitl scored, although they did factor into the scoring with secondary assists. Still, McDavid and Draisaitl are on fire as usual with 11 points (5 G, 6 A) and 12 points (3 G, 9 A), respectively, in seven games. The other top Oilers producers made impacts against St. Louis, too: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins picked up his 200th NHL goal, Zach Hyman added two assists, and Evander Kane pick up a secondary assist on the empty-net goal to seal the win. Additionally, Jesse Puljujärvi got his first of the season.

The Oilers are still predominantly a top-heavy forward group, as seen by the players who contributed to the win with the Blues, but they’ll get some help from Darnell Nurse (5 points) and Tyson Barrie (3 points) on the backend. Oscar Klefbom is expected to be out all season with a shoulder injury.

One of the problem areas for the Oilers last season was in net, so they picked up former Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jack Campbell in free agency after he had back-to-back above average years. Campbell had one bad game out of the five he’s played, dragging his seasonal save-percentage down, but he’s been solid-to-great in his last two performances, including a .914 save-percentage in the victory over the Penguins. Campbell is likely to be the goalie in net against Chicago as Stuart Skinner played last night in St. Louis. He’ll be the best performing goalie the Blackhawks have faced since the start of the season.

Also of note: with Dylan Holloway (upper-body) out, the Oilers ran with 11 forward and 7 defensemen against Pittsburgh and St. Louis and may do the same in Chicago.

The Blackhawks are coming off four straight wins, which is unexpected only because the team was explicitly built to tank this season. However, under new head coach Luke Richards, this Chicago team is showing a lot of tenacity to pull out these wins. It might not be sustainable — their shot metrics and expected goals at 5-on-5 are both still near the bottom of the league. But the systematic improvement — especially on defense — is extremely encouraging for potential long-term success beyond this season.

In their latest victory, a 4-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night, they opened the scoring for the first time this season, had a multi-goal lead through much of the nights, and then held off the surging Panthers in the third period to get the win. It the first victory that didn’t require a Chicago comeback and it was over a non-bottom-feeder team, so it felt a bit more impactful. The Blackhawks were still severely out-shot and out-attempted, but they took advantage of the possession they did have.

Additionally, Alex Stalock had a fairly immaculate performance in net, stopping 29 of 31 shots; Patrick Kane got his first goal of the season; and the Blackhawks got contributions from players — Taylor Raddysh and Philipp Kurashev — who may be in the team’s long-term plans. But the Oilers will be an interesting test for the scrappy Blackhawks because they haven’t faced a team with such elite superstars since the home opener against the Colorado Avalanche.

With Tyler Johnson placed on injured reserve on Thursday morning, Reese Johnson appears to be back on the fourth line while Jujhar Khaira jumps to the second line to replace the injured Johnson — per the morning skate:

Elswhere on the injury report: Boris Katchouk (ankle) is close but not quite ready, Petr Mrazek (groin) is still week-to-week and Ian Mitchell could be closer to returning from his preseason injury (the tweet below is from Wednesday).

Tale of the tape (statistics from last season)

Blackhawks — Statistic — Sharks

45.98% (30th) — Corsi For — 45.59% (31st)

45.48% (30th) — Expected goals for — 47.45% (21st)

2.60 (29th) — Goals per game — 2.57 (30th)

3.52 (26th) — Goals against per game — 3.18 (21st)

49.6% (16th) — Faceoffs — 49.6% (17th)

19.2% (21st) — Power play — 19.0% (22nd)

76.2% (24th) — Penalty kill — 85.2% (2nd)

Projected lineups (card subject to change)

Blackhawks

Athanasiou — Domi — P. Kane

Khaira — Toews — Raddysh

Kurashev — Dickinson — Lafferty

Blackwell — Entwistle — R. Johnson

J. Johnson — S. Jones

Tinordi — Murphy

McCabe — C. Jones

Stalock

Söderblom

Oilers

E. Kane — McDavid — Yamamoto

RNH — Draisaitl — Hyman

Foegele — McLeod — Puljujarvi

Shore — Ryan

Nurse — Ceci

Kulak — Barrie

Niemelainen/Murray — Bouchard

Campbell

Skinner

How to watch

When: 7:30 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Radio: WGN 720

Live stream: Sling TV