Wednesday, 10.14.2009 / 6:30 PM
Khabibulin returns to Chicago
OILERS (3-1-1) at BLACKHAWKS (3-1-1)
: Chicago took the 2008-09 season series with Edmonton 3-0-1, but the Oilers took the last meeting, a 5-4 shootout victory on March 20, 2009.
: Both the Oilers and Blackhawks are coming off big wins on Monday night, but the real intrigue will come when Edmonton's Nikolai Khabibulin takes ice at the United Center for the first time after four seasons between the pipes in the Windy City.
: The Oilers are off to a strong start with three wins in their last four games and both of their losses this season being by only one goal. But Monday night may have been the breakout evening for Edmonton. After two one-goal victories, the Oil pasted the Predators, 6-1. Edmonton's typical offensive guns chipped in with Shawn Horcoff potting a goal and Andrew Cogliano and Dustin Penner both recording two points. Jeff Deslauriers also shined in his first start of the year, making 40 saves and besting Nashville's Pekka Rinne, who was chased after facing only seven shots.
After playing nothing but tight one-goal games this season, including two shootouts, the Oilers might be heading into Chicago a little more relaxed than they might have been a week ago after having a laugher against the Preds, and that's probably a good thing.
: In 83 years of hockey, the Blackhawks had never come back from a five-goal deficit … and then Monday happened. After a historic comeback win over Calgary, Chicago could be primed to make a serious run. The rest of October has home games galore, and the offense has fed on the energy at the Hawks' home arena -- Chicago has nine goals in two games at the United Center this season.
All is not peachy in the City of the Big Shoulders, however, as the Hawks offensive outburst may be masking concerns in net. Cristobal Huet
has yet to turn in a truly strong performance, and Monday, with three goals allowed on five shots, was particularly rough. While backup Antti Niemi
steadied himself in time to backstop the Hawks to the win, he also looked shaky early, giving up two quick goals after entering the game. If the woes continue, Chicago may wish it still had the man at the other end of the ice.
: After the victories both of these teams are coming off of, the better question might be who isn't hot? Even Zach Stortini, an Oiler more known for his fists than his stick-handling, came away with two goals against Nashville. Patrick Kane
is coming off a three-point night against the Flames.
: Fernando Pisani, Marc Pouliot and Sheldon Souray are all on IR for the Oilers, while Steve Staios is questionable for Wednesday with a concussion. Chicago's Ben Eager is on IR, also with a concussion.
: In four seasons with the Blackhawks, Nikolai Khabibulin had a GAA of 2.69. Huet had a solid season splitting time with Khabibulin last year, but now that he is the fulltime starter, Huet's GAA has ballooned to 3.69 -- a full goal higher than Khabibulin's during his tenure in Chicago.
: Before the year started, Edmonton was expected by many to struggle after making few changes to a roster that disappointed last season. So far, however, the Oil is flying with the best of them. With Edmonton only losing once in regulation this season, it is making a case to be considered a legitimate playoff contender, but the Oilers will be running into a Hawks team brimming with confidence after its history-making win. For Chicago this is a chance to keep the locomotive on the tracks, but for Edmonton this will be an early test of how it stacks up against the West's contenders.
-- David Kalan, NHL.com