Oilers try to get back on track in Chicago
The Edmonton Oilers will try to avoid their first three- game losing streak of the season when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks tonight at the United Center.
The Oilers began the season with a surprising 8-2-2 record, but they have since lost three out of four games and are coming off consecutive setbacks in Boston and Detroit. Tonight's test marks the end of a six-game road trip for Edmonton and is also the club's fourth straight matchup against an Original Six team.
Edmonton last played on Friday and was handed a 3-0 loss by the Red Wings. The setback came just one night after the Bruins dealt the Oilers a 6-3 loss at TD Garden. The Oilers have lost two in a row on three occasions this year, but haven't dropped three straight since ending the 2010-11 campaign on a 0-2-1 skid.
The Oilers ran into a hot goaltender on Friday, as Jimmy Howard stopped 24 shots to record his third shutout of the season for Detroit. Nikolai Khabibulin, meanwhile, suffered his first regulation loss of the year after yielding goals to Drew Miller, Valtteri Filppula and Niklas Kronwall.
"It seems like we were a little bit out of sync," said Khabibulin. "We were maybe a half step behind."
Khabibulin is 7-1-2 with a 1.18 goals-against average and .957 save percentage this year. The former Blackhawks goaltender is 14-8-0 with a tie in 25 career tests against Chicago.
Oilers defenseman Cam Barker, a former first-round pick of the Blackhawks, is expected to miss his second straight game tonight with an ankle injury. He has one goal and a plus-three rating in 12 games this season.
Edmonton, which will play its next two games on home ice against Ottawa and the Blackhawks, is just 3-4-1 as the road team this season.
Chicago will try for a third straight victory tonight after notching wins recently against Columbus and Calgary. The Blackhawks recorded a 6-3 road win over the Blue Jackets on Thursday and then posted a 4-1 win the following night against the visiting Flames.
Patrick Sharp dished out three assists and four different Blackhawks scored in the win over Calgary. Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Viktor Stalberg and Patrick Kane all scored for Chicago, while Marian Hossa and Daniel Carcillo both had a pair of helpers in the win.
Ray Emery made 24 saves for the Blackhawks, who had lost three straight before the back-to-back wins.
"You want to be comfortable in net and I'm working on things to improve my game," said Emery after just his fourth start of the season. "It's early in the season still and I just have to stay focused."
Corey Crawford is expected to be back between the pipes for Chicago tonight. He is 1-2-0 with a 1.90 GAA in three career outings against the Oilers.
Chicago, which is expected to be without centerman Dave Bolland (foot) for a third straight game tonight, has won four of its last five home games and is 6-1-2 at the United Center this season.
The Oilers and Blackhawks split four meetings a year ago, but Chicago has won six of eight and nine of the last 12 encounters overall. Edmonton has won in its last two trips to the Windy City.