Following a rough start on and off the ice, the Chicago Blackhawks are finally playing some quality hockey.
Whether it’s good enough to beat the Edmonton Oilers on their home ice remains to be seen.
The Blackhawks eye a fifth consecutive victory while trying to keep the Oilers from extending their home winning streak to five games on Saturday night.
Chicago, which has already dealt with some severe organizational issues surrounding the alleged abuse of former prospect Kyle Beach in 2010, opened 0-7-2 and sat at 1-9-2 before firing head coach Jeremy Colliton and then winning four straight under Derek King.
The Blackhawks allowed 3.9 goals per game over their first 12 contests, but have yielded six total in the last four.
Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane each notched a goal with an assist and Marc-Andre Fleury made 31 saves on Wednesday, as the Blackhawks recorded their first road victory in seven tries, 4-2 at Seattle.
“It’s a lot more fun the way we’re playing hockey right now,” Fleury, who has stopped 95 of 100 shots during a three-game winning streak, told reporters.
“We dug ourselves a big hole, still have a long way to go … I think we’re playing better as a team, all of us, and it’s showing, too. Got to keep going in the same direction.”
Chicago faces a stiff test in trying to continue its surge. The Blackhawks last faced the Oilers in August 2020, when they eliminated Edmonton in four games during the first round of the pandemic-altered “bubble” playoffs.
More than a year later, Edmonton is an even more serious Stanley Cup contender with wins in 12 of its first 16 games. A big reason for the Oilers’ early success is the fact they’ve totaled 33 non-shootout goals while going 7-1-0 at home.
Superstar Connor McDavid extended his season-opening point streak to 16 games with his 11th goal and Stuart Skinner (1-2-0, 2.10 goals-against average) stopped a career-high 46 shots in his fourth NHL start during Edmonton’s 2-1 shootout home victory over Winnipeg on Thursday.
It was a needed triumph for the Oilers, who returned from a 2-3-0 road trip. Now they’ll try to win back-to-back contests anywhere for the first time since a four-game run Oct. 30-Nov. 5.
“I think (Thursday’s win) just gets back on track,” Edmonton’s Cody Ceci said. “It was a long trip. It was a tough trip. Just coming home, I think everyone was excited to be back.”
With 30 points in 16 games, McDavid has been stellar no matter where he’s skating. He has 10 points in 11 career regular-season games versus Chicago.
Fellow star Leon Draisaitl (17 goals, 16 assists) was held without a point for just the third time this season on Thursday. He’s totaled three goals with eight assists during a six-game, regular-season point streak against the Blackhawks.
For the first time, Edmonton defenseman Duncan Keith will face off against the Blackhawks, the team he spent his previous 16 seasons with and helped win three Stanley Cups.
He will be protecting the net minded by Mikko Koskinen, who has won three straight home starts.
Kane has six points in the last four games, and three goals with three assists in his last four regular-season contests versus Edmonton. DeBrincat, meanwhile, has three goals with two assists in the last four games.
–Field Level Media