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Oilers v. Blackhawks - Mark 8:1-13

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In the evening a large crowd had gathered. They had no reason to be proud of their hockey team so Quinn called his players together and said, "I have compassion for these people; they have been following this team for three years and have not once tasted the playoffs. If we send them off to another summer without playoffs they may break down and start cheering for a young, better, more exciting team."

His players answered, "But where will we ever find anyone with enough talent to get us into the playoffs?"

"How many wins do we have," Quinn asked?

"Nine," they replied.

He asked the crowd to sit down and they did. After that Quinn looked at his team, gave thanks for the nine wins they had already compiled and told his players to go out before the people and win some damn games. And they did so! Afterward, he realized that they also had a few losses in overtime or the shootout; he gave thanks for those as well thinking that they would need every last point to make the playoffs. The people watched these performances and they were satisfied. At the end of the season the players looked and saw that they had seven wins more than they needed. About seventeen thousand fans were present for each victory. Each night they went home content.

This all began with a game at home against the Blackhawks. In fact, Quinn gave this opening speech in the dressing room. Quenneville - who is always listening at the door of other teams, the dirty cheater - and some of the other Blackhawks then asked Quinn for a sign that this would take place. Quinn had said, "A sign? Why do you need a miraculous sign? I'll tell you the truth, you won't be getting any sign. What you will be getting is stomped on in the playoffs." Then he left them and that's when the winning streak began.

Chicago Blackhawks (13-5-2) @ Edmonton Oilers (9-10-3)

Rexall Place, 8:00 P.M. MDT
Television: CBC

More analysis after the jump...

Visiting Team Scouting Report: The Chicago Blackhawks are a great team. I've seen them play the Avalanche three times this season and the Oilers once and although they didn't win all four games they were clearly the better team each time. The Hawks are leading the league in shot differential by a tidy margin and are soon going to add Marian Hossa to their lineup. This is likely the best team in the NHL. They're in some cap trouble trying to plan for next year and news has been surfacing all over the place that they're trying to find a taker for Brent Sopel so that they can sign their more important players long-term. I imagine they'll be able to do it eventually but for tonight, Sopel's in, the young guns are playing for new contracts and the Oilers are probably road kill.

Expected Lineups:

Edmonton Oilers (9-10-3):

Penner - Horcoff - Hemsky
Reddox - Brule - O'Sullivan
Moreau - Potulny - Cogliano

Jacques - Gagner - Stortini

Staios - Souray

Pump - Dump
Strudwick - Gilbert


Khabibulin

Chicago Blackhawks (13-5-2)

Sharp - Toews - Kane
Ladd - Versteeg - Byfuglien
Eager - Madden - Brouwer
Bickell - Fraser - Kopecky

Keith - Seabrook
Hjalmarsson - Campbell
Barker - Sopel

Huet

Behind the Numbers:

  • Chicago defender Duncan Keith is currently tied for 4th in scoring by defencemen with 18 points on the season (11 at even strength). Edmonton defender Lubomir Visnovsky is tied for 7th with 15 points (7 at even strength).
  • Chicago is the best in the NHL at outshooting opponents with a shot differential of +9.4 per game. The Oilers have moved up to 27th overall in the NHL with a shot differential of -5.5. It's still terrible but at least it's moving in the right direction. Well, until tonight anyway.
  • Chicago is second in the NHL with a team faceoff percentage of 54.2% while the Oilers are 30th with a team faceoff percentage of 45.8%. The Hawks are going to be starting a lot of sequences with possession of the puck.
  • Cristobal Huet has been one of the best goalies since the lockout but he's had a rough start to this season. Through 16 games his EV save percentage is only .904. But before you get on the "shots are more difficult in Chicago" bandwagon, the unheralded Antti Niemi is at .915.
  • Regardless of recent praise from coach Pat Quinn, Liam Reddox and Ryan Potulny still have some work to do before they're helping winning teams in this league. Potulny's Corsi of -3.02/15 is coming in relatively sheltered ice time. Ditto for Reddox with whose Corsi is an even worse -4.41/15. These men are not your saviours. Even scarier: both Reddox and Potulny are well clear of Cogliano, Nilsson, Pisani and Moreau.
  • Nikolai Khabibulin is already up to 17th on the Oilers all-time wins list with a total of 7, just one win behind 16th place Jim Corsi (may his name be praised).
  • Steve Staios (+31) and Fernando Pisani (+18) are 1st and 2nd among current Oilers in +/- as an Oiler (regular season games only). A convoluted stat to be sure but hopefully one that reminds us that these guys used to be pretty decent players on a pretty decent hockey club (Ethan Moreau is +6 for his Oiler career). The guys ahead of Pisani in +/- as an Oiler who are still playing in the NHL are Mike Grier and Todd Marchant. Depth guys. It sure would be nice to have some.