It’s a Western Conference showdown tonight in Alberta, as the Edmonton Oilers (29-20-6) host the Chicago Blackhawks (25-22-8). This is only the second meeting between these teams this season, the first being in early October when the Blackhawks won 3-1 in Chicago.
Here is a preview for tonight’s game, along with odds and a free pick.
By the Numbers
First up the Blackhawks, who shortly after winning six out of seven have dropped their last three games to fall into seventh place in the Central. Chicago currently ranks 20th in both goals per game and shots with 2.91 and 31, respectively. Along with having a 9.4 shooting percentage, one that ranks 19th in the NHL, their 15 percent power play rate is a measly 28th.
Chicago’s defense is still a mixed bag, where despite allowing the most shots per game with 35.4, their 3.07 goals allowed is only 18th among the rest of the league. The penalty kill is working for the Hawks, however, as this season they have killed penalties 83 percent of the time, seventh in the league.
As for the Oilers, a win last Saturday against the Predators snapped a two-game skid and gave them their sixth win in 10 days, moving them to a tie for second in the Pacific. Edmonton is 12th in the league in goals per game with 3.16, despite ranking just 24th with an average of 29.9 shots. Along with a shooting percentage just outside the top-five, the Oilers’ power play is the best in the sport, converting 29.3 percent of the time.
On the other side, Edmonton’s 3.11 goals allowed is tied for 20th. In addition, they rank 15th in shots with 31.2. However, much like the Blackhawks, the Oilers have found success on the penalty kill. This season, Edmonton has killed 83.2 percent of their penalties, the fifth-best rate in hockey.
Who to Watch
Chicago’s leading scorer is Patrick Kane, and it’s no surprise that he’ll be the one to watch tonight for the road team. Kane recently put together a 12-game point streak in which he had five goals and 13 assists, and now has dished out an assist in each of the last two games. The three-time Cup winner is up to 25 goals and 42 assists this season, making him the biggest offensive threat by far for the Blackhawks.
Along with Kane, forwards Kirby Dach and Brandon Saad are coming in with some momentum. The young center Dach, last June’s third overall pick in the draft, had his five-game point streak recently snapped in which he had a goal and five helpers. He now has seven goals and 10 assists on the year. Meanwhile, the veteran Saad has found his scoring touch since returning from an ankle injury, scoring five goals in his last seven games to give him 16 scores total.
It’s rare that the NHL’s point leader gets shut out not once but twice in a row, which is what happened last week to Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl. However, Draisaitl bounced back with a two-goal performance on Saturday to move him over the 30-goal mark. The “Deutschland Dangler” has 31 goals and 54 assists to give him a league-leading 85 points, so needless to say, Chicago will have their hands full.
Of course, second to Draisaitl in points is fellow Oiler Connor McDavid. The former-MVP has three goals and an assist in the last four games, giving him a total of 30 goals and 51 helpers. However, McDavid suffered a bruised knee on Saturday and his status remains questionable for tonight. Should he miss the game, expect Draisaitl to move up to first line center.
The Blackhawks hope to snap their losing streak with Robin Lehner in net. In his first season in Chicago, Lehner is 15-8-5 with a 2.83 GAA and .923 save percentage.
The Oilers will counter with veteran Mike Smith, expected to draw tonight’s start. Smith is 14-9-4 with a 2.96 GAA and .901 save percentage, but does have one shutout.
Odds and Pick
The Oilers are favorites tonight at home, listed at -125 according to odds-makers. This year, they have a 14-9-4 record in their building, while the Hawks are a solid 13-10-4 away from home.
This game could be influenced significantly by the status of McDavid. If he plays, that gives Edmonton’s offense the ability to dominate at times. If he’s out, that may open up a window for Chicago. I will take the Oilers -125 to win at home tonight, but I will also closely monitor McDavid’s status leading up to puck drop.
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