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BLACKHAWKS (16-4-4) at OILERS (7-15-2)
TV: CSN-CH, SNET-W
Last 10: Chicago 7-2-1; Edmonton 4-6-0
Season series: This is the second of three meetings between the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers. The Blackhawks edged the Oilers 5-4 thanks to a three-goal third period in the first game Nov. 10 at United Center.
Big story: Chicago and Edmonton each boast exciting offensive talent as the nine goals scored in the first game would attest, but the two teams currently sit at opposite ends on the standings. The Blackhawks' 36 points are second-most in the Western Conference and the Oilers' 16 are the fewest. However, Edmonton's young guns come into the game Monday with a three-game winning streak and will try to make a statement when they host the defending champions.
Blackhawks: The Blackhawks' visit to Edmonton will mark the midway point of their annual Circus Trip. This year's lengthy trek out west did not get off to the best start, a 5-1 drubbing against the rival Colorado Avalanche, but Chicago has since gotten its traveling house in order with a 6-3 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night and a stunning 2-1 victory against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
The Blackhawks' win in Vancouver came courtesy of a third-period rally in which Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger each scored within a span of nine seconds, which was eerily reminiscent of their Cup-clinching outburst in June when the Blackhawks scored two goals in 17 seconds late in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
"It can turn around pretty quick if we get some chances," goalie Corey Crawford said afterward. "Especially the opportunities we got. They were A-plus chances, and usually we bury those."
Those wins have helped Chicago keep pace with its nearest rivals and in first place in the Central Division, but the Blackhawks' nearest chasers are nipping at their heels. The St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild are all within two points of Chicago, while St. Louis and Colorado each have two games in hand.
Oilers: The Oilers' collection of talent is no secret, but it hasn't translated to wins as quickly as they hoped. That may be starting to change. The Oilers, who have the second-fewest points in the League, have scored 15 total goals in their three straight wins. It has changed the atmosphere around the team, which enjoyed a three-day break this past weekend.
"It's nice," Defenseman Justin Schultz said after practice Saturday. "Coming to the rink after winning games is something that we haven't had a lot of this year. It makes it more fun for us to come here and hang out for with the guys and it's a fun atmosphere."
Edmonton's game against Chicago will close a three-game homestand, which it opened with a 7-0 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets this past Tuesday. A win would give Edmonton a sweep of a homestand of two or more games for just the third time in the past three seasons.
Who's hot: Crawford looked like a championship goalie in Vancouver, stopping 36 of 37 shots. His 15 wins are tops in the League. ... David Perron has four goals and two assists in the past three games for Edmonton.
Injury report: Blackhawks right wing Marian Hossa (personal reasons) and center Michal Handzus (hand injury) are both questionable to play Monday. Chicago recently lost left wing Bryan Bickell (lower-body injury) until early December. Goalie Richard Bachman (lower-body injury) and right wing Tyler Pitlick (knee injry) are out indefinitely for the Oilers.