Insisting the team bond is stronger than ever, the Chicago Blackhawks head into the final five weeks of the regular season with confidence.
Trying to build on their highest-scoring game in more than a month, the Blackhawks look to continue the recent offensive home success they’ve enjoyed against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night.
After dispelling recent rumors of dressing room discord, Chicago (38-21-5) scored the first four goals en route to a 5-2 home win over Carolina on Monday.
"I think it’s important, the camaraderie of a team being together, supporting one another through the ups and down," coach Joel Quenneville said a day after the Blackhawks scored more than four goals from the first time since a 6-1 rout of Arizona on Jan. 20.
Third in the Central Division, the Blackhawks have won three of four and are only concerned about collectively getting better down the stretch.
"We’ve never been a tighter group," defenseman Brent Seabrook said.
"We’ve got to get back to playing our game every night, and consistently. … We’re excited about the challenge and the opportunity."
After recording two goals and an assist Monday, Jonathan Toews appears poised to pick up even more of the void left by the absence of injured star Patrick Kane. Toews has five goals in the last five games, and four with two assists during a four-game point streak versus Edmonton (18-36-10).
Chicago has scored five goals in three straight home games against the Oilers, including wins in the last two. The Blackhawks scored at least four in six straight overall against Edmonton before their five-game series winning streak ended with a 5-2 road loss Jan. 9.
Quenneville believes the memories of that meeting will be enough to prevent his club from taking anything for granted even though the Oilers have the Western Conference’s worst record and have totaled six goals while losing four of five. Edmonton’s lone victory in those five came in its only game on the road, 2-1 on Feb. 24 to snap Minnesota’s six-game home winning streak.
"Everybody’s got meaning (to play) at this time of the year," Quenneville said. "You’ve got teams that aren’t making the playoffs and they can find motivation, maybe play more relaxed. Everybody wants to play well. The last time we played them we saw a dangerous team."
The Oilers open a five-game trip looking to bounce back after Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to Los Angeles.
"I think we’re trying to find a level of consistency where we’re playing our game every night," forward Jordan Eberle told the Oilers’ official website. "When you have a step back like that, it (ticks) you off."
Teammate Taylor Hall had a goal with an assist during the home win over the Blackhawks and has 10 points in seven career games at Chicago, but he remains out with a leg injury that’s limited him to one game since Jan. 20.
Expected to start, Chicago’s Corey Crawford has allowed two goals in his last two games and is looking to win three in a row for the first time since November.
Crawford made 24 saves in a 7-1 road victory Nov. 22 for his third straight win over Edmonton. He’s 2-4-0 with a 3.31 goals-against average against the Oilers in Chicago but hasn’t faced them there since November 2013.
While recently acquired veterans Antoine Vermette and Kimmo Timonen failed to register points in their Chicago debuts Monday, physical forward Andrew Desjardins is expected to make his first appearance with the Blackhawks since coming over from San Jose.