It’s a slightly earlier start tonight on West Madison to accomodate the western Canadian audiences as the Hawks welcome Connor McDavid and his merry band of pranksters into the UC for their only visit of the year, with both teams capping off a three-in-four weekend stretch yet again, with all of the Oil’s games coming on the road.
While the season started out as a tandem punchline/true feat of individual skill with Connor McDavid factoring in the scoring on his team’s first 9 goals of the season, a new NHL record, somehow the Oilers are now 5-3-1 and right in the conversation (for now) amid a god-awful pacific division, and it miraculously started happening when other people started scoring. Last night in Nash Vegas Leon Draisaitl potted another two goals, which makes it 5 in his last 5 games as the Oilers beat the Preds for the first time in forever, let alone on the notoriously tough Bridgestone Arena ice. Draisaitl has done it away from McDavid, too, now centering the second line where he probably should be anyway between Toby Reider and Alex Chiasson. Of course, that’s resulted in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins moving up to a top line wing spot along side McJesus, because nothing with the Oilers’ forward depth with their zillion lottery picks is ever going to make total sense. Ryan Strome is still scoreless on the season and being flanked by the shaman’s-curse-haunted trough urinal that is Milan Lucic probably isn’t helping much. Jujhar Khaira is wondering what he could have possibly done to deserve playing with Kyle Brodziak and Zack Kassian on the fourth line.
On defense, Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson would make a fine pairing if they weren’t drawing top assignments, and if one of them wasn’t trade for the reigning MVP of the league. Darnell Nurse still can’t seem to put it together, and he’s just passed the arbitrary 200-game “getting it” mark the old guard usually ascribes to defensemen “getting it”. Of course being paired with human archery haystack Kris Russell doesn’t help things, but if he’s ever going to be anything he should at least be able to play through it a little bit. Jason Garrison was patrolling the Oilers’ third pairing as recently as last night, as much as he patrols anywhere. Evan Bouchard could take his place alongside number EIGHTY THREE Matthew Benning, who’s first action since coming off IR was last night in Nashville.
Todd McLellan opted to throw out the curiously numbered (19?) Mikko Koskinen last night for the first time this season effectively conceding the game before it started against conference leading Nashville and walked out with a regulation win, so starting Cam Talbot, his ostensible #1 tonight is basically found money. But Talbot has basically been broken since the spring of 2017, and is currently carrying a .901 overall and .913 at evens, which is slightly worse than what he did last year, having played in 143 of the Oilers 176 regular season games since he’s arrived. That’s just too much of a workload for any
As for the Men of Four Feathers, last night’s defensive effort against a relatively stationary and straightforward Blues team should give observers a fair amount of pause coming into tonight, because even though the Oilers always seem to hilariously trip over their own dicks, they still have the speed and skill to exploit a Blackhawks’ defensive unit and scheme that seemingly cannot wait to get wildly out of position. And now tonight they won’t have the safety net of Corey Crawford behind them, with Cam Ward getting the net despite the fact he’s probably still seeing tracers after what he had to endure a week ago against Tampa.
With no morning skate today, the lineups could literally be anything, but look for Jan Rutta to be in a suit after getting yanked off the ice by the neck with a vaudeville cane in the middle of the second period never to return. Of course the corresponding move would be to throw yet another Brandon into the mix, because there can never be enough Brandons on the ice. Eat Arby’s.
Given the lack of defensive structure on either side and the offensive firepower among both forward groups with two tepid-at-best goalies, this game could get OFF THE RAILS real quick, and last about 6 hours. The Hawks need the points more than the Oilers do, because while the West isn’t going to get away from anyone, the Central is an absolute meat grinder once again. Beat the beatable teams, especially at home. Let’s go Hawks.
Game #12 Preview Suite