Anton Forsberg back in net for Blackhawks Sunday matinée with Oilers
Forsberg hasn’t started since a December 28 loss in Vancouver.
A pair of teams falling well short of their preseason expectations meet up at the United Center on Sunday afternoon when the Chicago Blackhawks host the Edmonton Oilers.
It’s been a season-long game of catch-up for the Oilers, who lost six of their first eight games to start the season. Edmonton did rip off four straight wins before Christmas, but any good feelings from that streak have evaporated as the Oilers lost five of their last six games, including back-to-back 5-0 beatdowns from the Los Angeles Kings and Winnipeg Jets that saw the Oilers getting booed off their home ice. Edmonton’s last game was a 5-1 loss in Dallas on Saturday.
Where’s it all gone wrong for the Oilers? Start on the wings. Edmonton has a 1-2-3 punch at center that’s as good as any in the league with Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and those three players are the three leading scorers, in that order, on Edmonton. But when it’s 2018 and Milan Lucic is skating on a top line, that’s problem. Patrick Maroon isn’t much better, but at least his cap hit is only one-fourth of Lucic’s $6 million. And the other players skating on the wings for Edmonton present a series of questions like “Who’s that?” and “He’s in the league?” If only they had someone on the roster, like, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft ...
Darnell Nurse looks like the real thing on the back end, but defensive depth is once again an issue for the Oilers. And Cam Talbot’s numbers have regressed heavily from the prior season, further compounding Edmonton’s inability to keep the puck out of its own net. The Oilers acquired Chicago-area native Al Montoya within the last week, but believing he’s any type of answer to their goalie woes is unwise. Montoya debuted with the Oilers in relief of Talbot on Saturday and could be the starter on Sunday.
Chicago and Edmonton have already played twice his season, with each team picking up a win in overtime. The Blackhawks have been out-shot and out-chanced in each of these outings, requiring heroic efforts from Anton Forsberg in October and Jeff Glass one week ago just to make it to overtime. Forsberg gets the nod on Sunday, with a chance to re-claim the No. 1 goalie spot in Chicago while Corey Crawford remains out indefinitely with an injury that has Hawks fans pleading with the hockey gods for a return to the lineup before this team falls entirely out of a playoff spot.
In front of the net, Ryan Hartman is back from whatever ailed him on Friday and will join Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane on the second line. Richard Panik jumps down to the fourth line, with John Hayden appearing to be the odd man out after Saturday’s practice.
While the Hawks are still sitting in last place in the Central Division, they’re still five points ahead of the Oilers with two games in hand (just in case you thought the Hawks’ playoff hopes looked bleak). Each team desperately needs the two points, and any points Chicago can get while its best player remains on injured reserve will be points well-earned.
|F1||Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Vinnie Hinostroza|
|F2||Ryan Hartman - Nick Schmaltz - Patrick Kane|
|F3||Patrick Sharp - David Kampf - Alex DeBrincat|
|F4||Lance Bouma - Tommy Wingels - Richard Panik|
|D1||Duncan Keith - Jordan Oesterle|
|D2||Gustav Forsling - Jan Rutta|
|D3||Michal Kempny - Connor Murphy|
|F1||Tyler Ennis - Eric Staal - Zach Parise|
|F2||Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu- Joel Eriksson Ek|
|F3||Chris Stewart - Charlie Coyle - Mikael Granlund|
|F4||Marcus Foligno - Matt Cullen - Daniel Winnik|
|D1||Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon|
|D2||Jonas Brodin - Mathew Dumba|
|D3||Mike Reilly - Nate Prosser|
How to watch Oilers at Blackhawks
Start time: 2 p.m. CT
Location: United Center, Chicago IL