The Chicago Blackhawks have fared well in the second half of back to backs in recent years. They haven’t done so hot, however, against the Edmonton Oilers in general. So which side wins out this evening?
Corey Crawford will get the start in goal against the Oilers, Nikolai Khabibulin’s former team, tonight at the United Center. Coach Joel Quenneville said Khabibulin “definitely got some consideration” but, with the lighter schedule, it’s Crawford’s second turn in as many nights.
So now that you know the starting goaltender, let’s get back to that first topic, as well as a few other items in the Five Things to watch in tonight’s game.
1. Which Blackhawks team shows up tonight? Is it the one that’s been running beautifully these past few games, or is it the one that’s had its struggles against Edmonton? Granted, last season the Blackhawks played them well — they played everyone well in 2012-13. But two seasons ago, they had some ugly, lopsided losses to the Oilers. It doesn’t matter Edmonton’s record: This matchup brings out the best in Oilers, and Quenneville said the team talked about it prior to the game. “We got it handed to us a couple of times,” Quenneville said. “We’re definitely aware of what they’re capable of. Some nights we seem to bring the best out of them.”
2. The Blackhawks’ top line has been setting the pace in recent games, and we have a feeling they’ll do that again tonight. Be it Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp or Marian Hossa, the points have been adding up for the trio. Having all three of them in synch at the same time spells danger for their opponents. “It seems like we’ve found a chemistry, and we hope it continues like that,” Hossa said.
3. Back to goaltending for a second: Crawford had a stellar night in Dallas on Friday, so we’ll see how much of that trickles over to tonight. The schedule benefits him right now — the Blackhawks’ next game isn’t until Thursday. So being fresh shouldn’t be an issue for Crawford.
4. Speaking of Edmonton dangers: Beware of Sam Gagner. You remember, the guy who lit up the Blackhawks for eight points in a game two seasons ago? The young center has 21 points in 23 career games against the Blackhawks. The Hawks will want to adjust accordingly.
5. Who shall have a good night for the Blackhawks? We’re going with Brandon Saad. He’s noticeable even when he’s not getting points, but tonight the points come back.