Sunday, November 13, 2011

Game Day: Oilers vs Blackhawks **UPDATE**

Edmonton (9-5-2) vs Chicago (10-4-3)

Time:      5:00pm
Where:   United Center
Watch:    Sportsnet Oilers
Listen:    630 Ched

Projected Line Combinations

Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Smyth - Horcoff - Hemsky
Jones - Belanger - Gagner
Petrell - Lander - Paajarvi 


According to Bob Stauffer's twitter account, Anton Lander will sit tonight and Eager draws back in. He is speculating the bottom six will be Paajarvi-Gagner-Jones and Eager-Belanger-Petrell...maybe the coaching staff is finally starting to see that this change is necessary.

Apparently the Eberle / Hemsky swap is taking place tonight. The few shifts that they switched things up against Detroit, where the best shifts they had all night. Would rather they just swap out Hall and Smyth but this works too.


No word on if Ben Eager gets back in against his former mates but it would make sense if he does. Considering the Blackhawks have super pest Dan Carcillo, who has been outstanding this season, in their lineup, having no toughness upfront could be a big mistake. That being said, if Eager draws back in and continues to play the uninvolved brand of hockey that he's played for much of the season, then the Oilers may have a huge problem on their hands. I am not sure what he was expecting in the way of minutes coming to Edmonton but if he had visions of being a third line player, he was badly mistaken. The speedy winger is and has never been, anything more then a fourth line guy and the only way he would see a few more minutes, is if his linemates were Eric Belanger and Ryan Jones and that's not going to happen anytime soon. If he would actually attempt to do the job that he was signed to do, things might work out better for him. Once Darcy Hordichuk returns from injury,  Eager could find himself as a permanent fixture in the press box.

Defence Pairings
Gilbert - Smid
Potter - Peckham

Sutton - Petry

With the injury to Cam Barker, Edmonton will be going with the same group on the backend. The top pairing of Gilbert and Smid are starting to tire and while the defence as a whole have been superb thus far, they are starting to show how badly they need a healthy Ryan Whitney back in the lineup.Whitney is probably about ten days, at the earliest, away from returning so they will have to make do until then. Lets see if Theo Peckham goes on a nice run after his biggest fan, Don Cherry, spoke glowingly of the rugged defenceman during last night's Coach's Corner segment on Hockey Night In Canada. If he could just eliminate the need he seems to have of throwing passes up the middle of the ice, things would be so much easier for him.


After allowing three goals for the first time this season, Nikolai Khabibulin will be looking to end the Oilers six game road trip on a winning note. The veteran netminder was solid again on Friday against the Wings and he will be looking to do the same against his former teammates on Sunday night. Whenever these two teams play in Chicago they tend to be wide opened affairs so the Russian goaltender can expect to see a lot of rubber coming his way.

Chicago Notes

  • The Hawks are led by the big boys upfront. Patrick Kane leads the team in scoring with 17 points, followed closely by Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews. No real surprises there and hence no one should be shocked that Chicago sit a top the Western Conference.
  •  The big surprise in Chicago has been the play of defenceman Nick Leddy. The youngster played major minutes down the stretch and in the playoffs last season but he has been even better this season.. He leads the Hawks defencemen in scoring with ten points while playing 20+ minutes a night. The 20 year old blueliner is a perfect compliment to the duo of Ducan Keith and Brent Seabrook.and leaves the Blackhawks backend  in great shape for years to come.
  • Goaltender Corey Crawford has been solid to start the season, outside of giving up six to the Canucks a week ago.His stats are somewhat skewed by that start and with the fact that the Hawks like to open things up and give up their far share of quality scoring chances. Crawford will never lead the league in save percentage playing in Chicago but he may very lead in wins and that's the only number that really counts.
  • After struggling upon his arrival from Flordia, forward Michael Frolik has found a home in the Windy City. The super talented Czech is being asked to play a checking role in Chicago and he seems to be thriving with next to no pressure on him. It's no uncommon to see Frolik on the ice late in games to secure a lead and I'm sure there are not many observers in Flordia who ever thought that would be the case.

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