The Chicago Blackhawks will be looking for their first win in eight games as they take on the Edmonton Oilers Wednesday night. This is Chicago’s final match in a three-game homestead against Canadian teams while Edmonton is on the first of back-to-back road games.
Despite having one of the best offensive duos in the league and a top-10 goal-scoring rate, Edmonton is currently sitting fourth in the Pacific Division with a negative goal differential. They’ve won their last two outings — a pair of 4-3 wins, first against the New York Rangers last Saturday and then against the Florida Panthers Monday — but they’d lost seven out of the 10 games prior to that. Both of these recent wins were gusty, come-from-behind performances from the Oilers: they overcame a 3-0 deficit against New York and stunned Florida with game-tying goal with just five seconds to go in regulation before scoring the game-winning goal only 22 seconds into overtime.
Obviously, the Oilers have been leaning heavily on their top duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl: the captain has seven points (2 G, 5 A) in his last five games while his linemate has four goals in the same span. The two combined for the game-winning goals in their last two games. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is also on a roll with five assists while Evan Bouchard has contributed from the blue line with four points (3 G, 1 A).
On the flip side, Edmonton isn’t particularly healthy at the moment, missing four of their top-nine forwards against the Panthers and most — if not all — will also be out against Chicago. This includes Evander Kane, Warren Foegele, Ryan McLeod, and Kailer Yamamoto — although the latter is potentially close to returning. It’s still a stronger lineup than the Blackhawks, but it’ll be interesting to see if the injuries give Chicago a fighting chance.
Something else to watch out for: the Oilers have allowed six goals against in the first five minutes of a game this season — a league high — but the Blackhawks have only scored first four times this season — a league low.
The Blackhawks head into the matchup Wednesday on a seven-game winless streak, last in the Central Division, and second to last in the entire league. They’re coming off an especially ugly and demoralizing 7-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets from Sunday, after which they had a players-only, closed-door meeting. Taylor Raddysh and Jujhar Khaira both scored and Philipp Kurashev had a two-assist night during the defeat (bringing his total to four points in his last five games), so at least some secondary scoring is happening. But that’s pretty much the end of the positives from that game. The winless streak has arguably been good for the rebuild process, but the way in which the Blackhawks have been losing lately has been frustrating compared to where they were earlier in the season.
In fact, the Blackhawks are performing very different from the last time they faced Edmonton back in late October: while the Oilers defeated the Blackhawks 6-5, the effort from Chicago was was at least admirable. Patrick Kane and Max Domi both had three-point nights (1 G, 2 A), but it just wasn’t enough for the offensive firepower of the Oilers’ top six forwards. Edmonton had five players with multi-point games: Connor McDavid had a hat trick and an assist, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins each had a goal and two assists, and Evander Kane and Evan Bouchard added two assists. For Chicago, Jonathan Toews, Andreas Athanasiou, Reese Johnson, and Caleb Jones scored the additional goals for Chicago in the loss.
The biggest news out of Blackhawks practice is that it looks like Toews and Kane will be reunited on a line against Edmonton. Head coach Luke Richardson has been reluctant to mix up the top two forward lines much this season, but he said this change made sense:
Luke Richardson on putting Kane and Toews together on the same line at practice: “Lets try it. It’s been done before, but I haven’t done it…let’s see what they are able to bring in the game.” #Blackhawks pic.twitter.com/VGR6U5HbYw— Josh Frydman (@Josh_Frydman) November 29, 2022
Otherwise, the only lineup change is that Domi will slide down between Toews’ usual linemates of Raddysh and Kurashev, while Sam Lafferty (back) and Jarred Tinordi (hip) are still out.
Tale of the tape (statistics from this season)
Blackhawks — Statistic — Oilers
41.23% (32nd) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 48.75% (21st)
40.65% (30th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 48.26% (23rd)
2.48 (31st) — Goals per game — 3.36 (10th)
3.62 (29th) — Goals against per game — 3.55 (26th)
56.4% (1st) — Faceoffs — 50.7% (14th)
21.9% (17th) — Power play — 28.8% (4th)
72.6% (26th) — Penalty kill — 73.3% (25th)
Projected lineups (subject to change)
Athanasiou — Toews— Kane
Kurashev — Domi — Raddysh
Khaira — Dickinson — Blackwell
Katchouk — Entwistle — R. Johnson
J. Johnson — S. Jones
Roos — Murphy
McCabe — C. Jones
Draisaitl — McDavid — Puljujarvi
Janmark — RNH — Hyman
Kostin — Shore — Ryan
Holloway — Malone — Hamblin
Nurse — Ceci
Kulak — Barrie
Broberg — Bouchard
How to watch
When: 8:30 p.m. CT
Where: United Center, Chicago
Radio: WGN 720
Live stream: Sling TV