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Oilers v. Blackhawks - Micah 3:1-4

Listen, you leaders of Edmonton!
You are supposed to know what you're doing,
but it turns out that you're the ones running this team into the ground!
You skin your prized forwards alive,
and tear the young flesh off their bones;
you chop them into bite-sized pieces,
and feed them to your enemies.
Then you beg Yahweh for help when things go south!
Do you really expect him to answer you?
After all of the evil and incompetence you've authored,
he won't even look at you!

Chicago Blackhawks (9-9-2) @ Edmonton Oilers (4-9-3)

Rexall Place, 7:30 p.m. MST
Television: Sportsnet Edmonton

More analysis after the jump...

Visiting Team Scouting Report:

Poor goaltending against (one of) the worst team(s) in the league has cost the Blackhawks early on this year. The Oilers have beaten exactly one team in the last month: the Chicago Blackhawks. Twice. If the Blackhawks had been able to win those two games, they'd be sitting well inside the top eight in the Conference, and although they'd still have some problems to work out the situation wouldn't look quite as desperate as it does now. The Hawks are a quarter of the way through the year, and 13th in the Western Conference in terms of points percentage. Maybe it's just a slump, or maybe it's just been some key injuries (Marian Hossa and Brian Campbell were both out for substantial periods in this stretch of games); but what if the defense just isn't good enough, or that the depth needs work. It's an important question. Are the Hawks going to snap out of this funk over the next forty, or are there substantial problems that need fixing. If it's the latter, and the GM does his best Steve Tambellini impression, the team will be in real danger of missing the playoffs altogether. So what's it going to be Stan?

Expected Lineups:

Edmonton Oilers (4-9-3):

Hall - Horcoff - Hemsky
Paajarvi - Gagner - Eberle
- Cogliano - Brule
Jacques - Fraser - Jones

Whitney - Gilbert

Peckham - Foster
Vandermeer - Belle


Chicago Blackhawks (9-9-2)

Stalberg - Toews - Kane
Sharp - Bolland - Hossa
Brouwer - Pisani - Kopecky
Bickell - Dowell - Skille

Keith - Boynton
Hjalmarsson - Seabrook
Cullimore - Campbell


By the Numbers:

  • Shawn Belle has been recalled from Oklahoma City after registering 15 points in 17 games, a total that leads the AHL in scoring by defensemen. A big chunk of that production came on the power play, and given the situation in Edmonton, it seems likely that Belle will get at least some minutes to prove his worth in Edmonton. On the other hand, Belle has posted a -7 rating so far, better than only rookie Jeff Petry (who's a -11). The two have played together quite often this year, so it's possible Belle is getting dragged down by the rookie, but we know that Belle isn't in the NHL for a reason. I suspect it's his ability to react quickly in the defensive zone and maintain coverage, so while Belle will provide a nice break from either Jason Strudwick or Jim Vandermeer, I'm not convinced he'll bring less frustration over the long haul. But hey, hopefully he can exceed expectations and force one of those two vets out of the league when Ladislav Smid is ready to play.
  • Tom Gilbert is taking a lot of heat, and he deserves some of it for sure. Thanks to David Staples, we know that Gilbert has accrued more errors than anyone else on the team, and those watching can certainly see that he's had some trouble in the defensive zone. That said, I find it hard to believe that Gilbert has more errors on his resume than Khabibulin (which he does according to the chart). Heck, I'm surprised Gilbert has more errors than Khabibulin when Gilbert is on the ice - as of Gabe's last update, Gilbert has an EV Sv% of .843 while he's on the ice, good enough for tenth worst in the NHL (min. 10 games played).
  • Coming into the year, we knew that part of Tom Renney's mandate was going to be playing the kids up front. So far, he's definitely come through. Jordan Eberle currently leads all rookie forwards in TOI per game with 18:08, Taylor Hall is third in the NHL with 16:48, and Magnus Paajarvi is seventh with 15:04. The only other team with multiple players in the top fifteen (min. 10 games played) is Boston, but both Jordan Caron and Tyler Seguin are getting less than 15 minutes per game.
  • He's only taken 43 faceoffs so far this season, but I still find it pretty amusing that Fernando Pisani's 48.8% on the draw would be the second best faceoff percentage on the Oilers, trailing only Gilbert Brule who's, incredibly, at 58.8% on the draw after 97 reps. It's hard to believe that a team struggling as much as the Oilers on the draw isn't using Brule quite a bit more.
  • Chicago's play at EV has certainly been off the mark so far this season, but their power play hasn't stopped scoring. So far this year, they're running third in the NHL with a PP efficiency of 25.8%. Tonight, they'll have the Oilers' PK to kick around, so that number may well be on the rise. I'll set the over/under for PPGA at 1.5.