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GDB 37: Blackhawks Have Been Quite Competitive at Home (6:30PM MT, SNW)

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
1 month ago
Despite Chicago’s injury-riddled lineup, the Edmonton Oilers can’t take a victory over the Blackhawks for granted. The Blackhawks have won 10 games this year versus playoff teams, or teams tied for the final playoff spot.
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Winnipeg, Colorado, Vegas, Florida, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Seattle and Toronto (twice) have already lost to Chicago. The Calgary Flames were in Chicago on Sunday and a victory would have moved them into a tie with Edmonton, St. Louis and Seattle for the final wildcard spot, but the Flames lost 4-3, despite Chicago being without Connor Bedard, Seth Jones, Taylor Hall, Tyler Johnson, Andreas Athanasiou, Nick Foligno, Anthony Beauvillier, Joey Anderson and Taylor Raddysh.
The Oilers defeated Chicago 4-1 in Edmonton on December 12th. Bedard scored a great goal 3:21 into the game, but the Oilers bounced back and controlled much of the game. They need a similar performance tonight, except they need to avoid giving the Blackhawks any early momentum. Their fans are loyal and loud, and despite being 31st in the NHL the Blackhawks are 8-9-1 on home ice. They are 4-17-1 on the road. Clearly, they get a boost from their home crowd.
They have been much more competitive on home ice, winning three of their past four, including wins over Colorado and Winnipeg, which are the only two teams with more points than the Oilers since November 24th. The Oilers are 15-3 in that time, while Winnipeg is 15-4-2 and Colorado is 14-6-3. The Oilers have the best P% over that time at .833 while the Jets are second at .762 and Colorado is fifth at .674. Winnipeg has played two more games than the Oilers and the Avs have played five more, which is why they have more points, but a lower P%.
The Oilers can’t overlook the Blackhawks, and I don’t expect them to. During this hot streak they have defeated lower seeded teams rather convincingly. They’ve defeated Anaheim 8-2 and 7-2, San Jose 5-0, Chicago 4-1, Washington 5-0, Philadelphia 5-2 and Ottawa 3-1 in a game Anton Forsberg kept much closer than the score reflected. Last season the Oilers were 17-6-4 v. bottom-ten teams and outscored them 116-77. This year they are 7-2 and have outscored the worst ten teams 42-21.
They are 24-8-4 in their last 36 games v. bad teams. Including tonight, 19 of their remaining 46 games (41.7%) are against bottom-10 teams. Their schedule, even when it gets busier in February, March and April, isn’t crazy difficult due to the quality of competition.
Tonight is a game they should win, and I believe they will. I think Chicago’s recent success against Colorado, Winnipeg and Calgary is a good reminder to never take a team lightly.

PRESENTED BY BETWAY

LINEUPS…

Oilers

RNH– McDavid – Hyman
McLeod – Draisaitl – Foegele
Kane – Ryan – Brown
Erne – Hamblin – Janmark
Nurse – Ceci
Ekholm – Bouchard
Kulak – Desharnais
Skinner
Phil Kemp was recalled from Bakersfield yesterday. He isn’t likely to dress unless there is an injury, but he will spend his first few days in the NHL. He will get to practice with the team, enjoy the team meals, stay in five-star hotels and fly on the team’s charter. And he’ll get a nice raise while he is here. This season is 192 days, so Kemp, who has a $775K salary while in the NHL, will make $4,036.45 each day on the NHL roster. That is a big jump from his $100K salary in the minors when he makes $520.83/day. The money is a nice bonus for a player who has played well in Bakersfield. Of course, he’d love to play, but just being in the NHL for a week will be a thrill.
I’d expect the Oilers to send him back to Bakersfield when the road trip ends.
Their final six games before the All-Good (sorry, it isn’t an All-Star game under current format) break are all at home, except one road game in Calgary. Having an extra D-man around is nice, but not a necessity and with the Oilers so close to the salary cap not having Kemp, or any seventh D-man, on the roster allows them to accrue more cap space. According to Puck Pedia, every day the Oilers don’t have Kemp on the roster, they would save $4,036K in cap space. But at the deadline that would be equivalent to $18.5K/day of cap space. Let’s say the Oilers send Kemp down this coming Sunday and don’t recall a D-man until February 8th, (before they play back-to-back in ANA/LA). They would accrue a total of $462.5K in annual cap space. The more cap space they accrue creates more cap space for trades. The NHL trade deadline is March 8th.
Skinner gets the start tonight. I’ll give Kris Knoblauch credit: He doesn’t give his backup the supposed easiest starts. Earlier this year he played Pickard v. NJ and next game Skinner got Chicago. Good way to build confidence of your backup is to not just give him the weakest teams.

Blackhawks

Pitlick – Kurashev – Raddysh
Blackwell – Dickinson – Anderson
Reichel – Entwhistle – Guttman
Katchouk –Sanford –Donato
Tinordi – Murphy
Vlasic – Megna
Korchinski – Zaitsev
Mrazek
The Blackhawks have four new lines with the addition of Pitlick, Anderson, Raddysh and Sanford to the lineup. Anderson and Raddysh return from injury, Pitlick was acquired in a trade while Sanford was claimed off waivers, as the Blackhawks scramble to find healthy bodies. Seth Jones skated this morning but wasn’t cleared to play. Dickinson (13), Kurashev (8) and Donato (6) are their leading goal scorers with Bedard, Johnson and Foligno out.
The Hawks have dressed 20 different forwards this season. Crazy.

TONIGHT:

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers don’t take the Hawks lightly and roll to their eighth consecutive victory with a 6-2 win.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hyman and McDavid score a goal. The Oilers’ top line is rolling.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Connor Brown ends his 51-game goalless drought.

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