October 29 2010 01:15PM
The Oilers blew into Chicago riding a six-game losing streak, but they get a bit of a break as Marian Hossa is out due to injury. The defending champs are 6-4-1 so far, but right now they don't look anywhere near the team that hoisted the Stanley Cup in June.
Even without Hossa, the Hawks are still very dangerous up front. Patrick Sharp is red-hot leading the league with nine goals in eight games. Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews have eight and seven points respectively, but the biggest difference tonight will be on the backend.
The Hawks haven't had Brian Campbell all season, and tonight they will dress Jordan Hendry, Jassen Cullimore and Nick Boynton. They still have Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson, but Hjalmarsson is really struggling with no points and a -6 rating so far.
The Oilers have played decent in the first two games of this trip, earning a point in Calgary and Columbus, but they haven't fared very well in Chicago recently. They are 3-7 in their last ten trips to Chicago, with all three of their wins coming in OT or the SO, but the Oilers haven't won a game in their first trip into Chicago since 2003/2004.
For what ever reason their first visit of the season to Chicago hasn't been kind with loses of 3-1, 4-1, 3-2, 3-0 and 4-3. All their wins have come during their second visits of the season.
If the Oilers hope to reverse that trend tonight, they need to keep Fernando Pisani off the scoresheet. The Oilers have been lit up by ex-Oilers early this season, especially former third and fourth line grinders. Pisani has yet to score with the Hawks and you know he' love to get one tonight.
Marty Reasoner and Kyle Brodziak have had two-goal games so far, while Curtis Glencross had a goal on Tuesday v. the Oilers.
After going a perfect 8-8 on the PK in Columbus last night, the Oilers will need to be even better tonight as the Hawks have the 5th best PP clicking at 24.3%. They can't afford to get running around in their own zone, or the Hawks quick-passing will surely lead to some goals.
While the Hawks PP has been great, they have surrendered a lot of shots. Last year the Hawks gave up the fewest shots per game at 25.1, but so far they sit 24th in shots against at 34.1/game. The Oilers are in 25th at 34.2/game so we could see plenty of opportunities both ways.
Nikolai Khabibulin will face his former team, and he's 12-7-1 in his career against the Hawks. Kurtis Foster skated today and will be a game time decision, while Renney has said if Stortini will replace Steve MacIntyre, but Bob Stauffer told me that Stortini wasn't the last guy off the ice, which he is when he isn't playing, so it looks like Stortini will draw back in.
And look for Taylor Hall to stay with Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky, while Dustin Penner will skate with Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule.
SERIOUSLY, NO HORCOFF?
I asked our resident artist Wanye to make draw me a quick picture (Wow, he has mad drawing skills) illustrating how excited Oilers fans would be if Horcoff actually got into a shoot out. Those black circles with red check marks, or letter U, are supposed to be fans. Wanye didn't get Shawn Horcoff's career shootout % correct, it should be 56%, but the point is clear...Let him shoot Tom Renney, LET HIM SHOOT.
I will forgive Wayne because he was in the midst of packing and made this drawing in 30 seconds. He and some buddies left today for an ultimate sports weekend. They will be in Dallas to take in a few Stars games, then they'll watch the Cowboys and those lucky sons-of-beatches got tickets to game four of the World Series. The worst part about that is Wanye had no clue that the Rangers played in Texas, he thought they were in New York. Seriously. Anyways that should be one hell of a trip and I expect some great stories when he returns.
Horcoff wasn't even slated to be the 3rd shooter last night, Jordan Eberle was, which perplexes me even more. I know Eberle and Sam Gagner made really good moves in their attempts this week, but they didn't score. Gilbert Brule had a great shot, but hit the post. Being close doesn't help you win a shootout. Does Renney not know that career-wise Horcoff is his best shooter?
Horcoff will be here for the next five years, so I can't see part of the process being letting the young guys get good in the shootouts and never use Horcoff. Unless Renney doesn't care about the end result, which I find impossible to believe, I dont' see any defence as to why Horcoff hasn't even been in the top six shooters so far. Renney is a much smarter hockey guy than I, and he has better hair, but I can't defend, nor understand, his decision not to use his captain.
If I'm coaching I send my best guy first.
No point holding him until last, because if the guys in front of him don't score then he might not even get a chance to shoot. The irony is that fans are actually clamouring for Horcoff to go. I can't recall the last time that the majority of fans were pro-Horcoff in any situation.
Of course there is no guarantee he will score, but considering up until now he has been hands-down their best guy, I'd roll the dice and hope my two 5's (that equals 10...I know 6 and 4 does too, but two 5's always looks better) would equal a goal!