Banged up Hawks battle hard, fall in shootout

Oilers 3, Blackhawks 2 (SO)

On a night where seemingly everybody on the Blackhawks' roster has some kind of flu bug, Chicago was forced to ice a lineup that looked pretty ugly, with several guys playing out of their normal position. However, the Hawks battled valiantly all night long, earning a point on the road, before eventually falling in the shootout, by a final score of 3-2 in Edmonton.

Tuomo Ruutu and Patrick Sharp were both out with the flu, and Brent Seabrook was apparently very ill as well but still played tonight. Also, backup goaltender Patrick Lalime is in pretty bad shape currently, as it was said on tonight's broadcast that he lost 10 pounds due to the flu.

Due to these injuries, the 'Hawks started out pretty slowly, and Denis Savard was mixing up the lines a lot looking for somebody to help give his team the edge again. The Oilers out-shot the Blackhawks 8-7 in the 1st period, but that doesn't really indicate how much Edmonton dominated. However, due to more excellent play by Nikolai Khabibulin, the score stayed 0-0 going into the 2nd period.

In the 2nd, it was like somebody flipped a switch and the Blackhawks woke up a little bit. They started skating better and creating some chances on net, and things were helped along with an early PP goal, just 43 seconds in, due to Jim Vandermeer's booming shot from the point, which got past Dwayne Roloson with help from Kris Versteeg, who created a nice screen in front of the net, giving the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead.

The Oilers would tie this one up with about 8 minutes left in the 2nd. On this play, Geoff Sanderson carried the puck into the Hawks zone and made a nice play to stop and send a cross-ice pass to Denis Grebeshkov, who stick handled towards the goal line extended. This caused Khabibulin to come out of his net and overplay it a little bit, and Grebeshkov dished it in front to Ales Hemsky, who was open to tap it into an empty net, making the score 1-1, which is how the score stayed into the 3rd period.

Just 6 minutes into the 3rd, Edmonton would get the go ahead goal in this one. After the puck was dumped into the corner of the Blackhawks' zone, Kyle Brodziak fished it out and made a quick pass to Marty Reasoner, who was way too open in point blank range from the net, and he put a quick shot past Khabibulin, giving the Oilers a 2-1 lead.

I give a lot of credit to the Hawks for not giving up after that goal, despite being a very depleted team that was facing an uphill battle. Just over 5 minutes after the Reasoner goal, the Hawks would get the equalizing goal, on an awesome shift that featured some great work by all five Hawks on the ice. Duncan Keith would dent the net, after faking a shot from the blue-line to get the defenseman down, and then letting a slapper go that went through traffic and into the net, making it 2-2 with about 9 minutes left in the 3rd.

The rest of this game was fun and nerve racking to watch, because things got pretty wide open and both teams had some very good chances to get the go-ahead goal late in the 3rd. With just 1:33 to go, a penalty was called on Edmonton and the Hawks had a golden opportunity to pick up a late goal and win this one. However, Roloson denied a few chances late in regulation and the game went to OT.

Overtime saw the Hawks out-shoot the Oilers 8-1, and pick up several terrific chances on net, but Roloson really made some huge stops for his team to keep it alive. After 65 minutes it was still tied 2-2, so the game went to a shootout, the second of the year for the Hawks.

The first shooter was Sam Gagner, drafted five spots below Patrick Kane in the 2007 NHL Draft, and he simply deked the heck out of Khabibulin, showing some great stick-handling skills to bury it and give Edmonton a 1-0 SO lead. Kane then went for the Hawks, and tried to pull off a move similar to the one that he was able to score against Dominik Hasek in the home opener with, but he couldn't elevate the puck and Roloson denied him.

Ales Hemsky went next for the Oilers, and he tried to stickhandle way too much, enabling Khabibulin to pokecheck the puck away and deny his shootout attempt. Yanic Perreault then went for the Blackhawks, and although he made a nice move to fake out Roloson, he missed an empty side by putting it off the glass. Shawn Horcoff would then go for the Oilers, and ended the game by putting the puck through Khabibulin's five hole, ending the game and giving Edmonton the shootout victory.

I'm actually fairly pleased that this team was able to come up with a point in a game where they had to put such an ugly lineup out there, and they battled all night long, so there's really not much to complain about in this one. Kudos to Robert Lang and Sergei Samsonov, who were two forwards that really made things happen offensively, and also Khabibulin, who was the only reason this wasn't a blowout loss. All in all, a good team effort, and a nice job picking up a point on the road.

Tomorrow's game in Vancouver could get ugly real quick. Troy Murray mentioned on the WSCR broadcast that he "overheard" that center Petri Kontiola will be called up from Rockford to play tomorrow, so someone else must be sitting out. My money would probably be on Seabrook. Also, with Lalime very ill, Khabibulin will probably be forced to play again, meaning he'll play both games of a back-to-back, and he's already gotta be as fatigued as it gets. Honestly, I'll be shocked if they aren't blown out by the Canucks.

SCH Hawks Player Of The Game: Nikolai Khabibulin, who made 29 saves on 31 shots and kept the Hawks in this one all night long.